US Under-20 boss Tab Ramos talks up Reading teenager Andrija Novakovich's future

Madejski Reading

Ramos was forced to leave the striker out of his squad for the summer's Under-20 World Cup due to Reading's big plans for him for next season.

When US Under-20 head coach Tab Ramos announced his initial squad for the upcoming World Cup on Thursday, Andrija Novakovich’s surprise omission left many wondering whether the Reading striker was out injured.

However, as Ramos revealed to Top Drawer Soccer, the Wisconsin-native’s absence was not due to fitness but because Reading refused to release him for the tournament in New Zealand, which runs from May 30 to June 20.

As big a blow as that will be to their chances, though, American fans could take heart from Ramos’ comments, as the former US star went on to explain how the Championship club’s decision came down to wanting their promising forward to be fresh for an assault on the first-team next season.

Aged just 18, the 6ft 3in front man is well-regarded at the Madjeski Stadium and made two senior cameos towards the end of the past campaign after impressive for the club’s Under-18s and then Under-21s.

Ramos therefore stressed that he bears no ill-will towards Reading for their decision and even praised the team for their recent support of US Soccer, having had former international Bobby Convey on their books previously and now midfielder Danny Williams.

“I can tell you Reading has done a great job with us over the years working with us with national teams, and they’re very supportive of U.S. Soccer and their players coming up,” said Ramos.

“They do release their players. They just strongly felt that Andrija, this has been a very difficult year for him with the physicality of the Championship and being on their team, and they consider him a very important part of next year’s group and their preseason, which starts late in June. And they strongly feel like at this point he’s going to need the rest.

“I can’t argue with that. I think if they at this point feel like that’s what’s best for their player – For me, as a U20 national team coach, above and beyond anything else, I know results are very important, but also what’s important is that we advance players to our first team.

“And if that’s the best case scenario for Andrija at this point, and that’s what everybody feels is best for him, then I support that as well. Hopefully we have Andrija ready, whether it’s for the Olympics or if it’s for the senior team down the road.”

The US will kick off the Under-20 World Cup on May 30 against Myanmar, before rounding out the group stage with games against hosts New Zealand and Ukraine on June 2 and 5, respectively.

Register for HITC Sport - Daily Dispatch