Because the United States has depended so much on the foreign-based players to augment the team for big matches, there was the inevitable harping by some of the Mission Viejo-based players. The situation festered until the coaching staff made some changes. Shortly after the first of the year, there was less talk by the coaches about the players in Europe, and the players in camp understood that all jobs were open.
Although Ramos was seldom with the team, he has been aware of the friction that has existed.
"I did feel it a little bit," Ramos said. "For some reason, when the whole team is together, we're pretty united. When we're far away from each other for so long, stories start to come up.
"Back in January, I read an article in one of the magazines, (in which former U.S. team member) Desmond Armstrong was saying something about the guys overseas. That was in retaliation for something that an overseas player said about the guys here. I called Desmond and told him, 'Look, we have to get together.' He agreed with me on everything. I think (the players) were never as far apart as people wanted to write or as people thought we were."
The problem might have something to do with a general lack of understanding of the lives of the players abroad. The notion that they are fabulously wealthy, live in mansions and drive expensive cars is inaccurate. Also missed is the fact that for many American players abroad, their choice of leaving the United States and finding work in Europe was because of the lack of a professional league here.
The strain on a family can also be great. Ramos' wife, Amy, who left behind a career when the couple went to Spain, is not able to work because of Spanish law and 23% unemployment. They miss their families in New Jersey and would like nothing more than to come back and make a living in the United States. At the moment, that is not possible.
"I do feel a bit isolated," Ramos said. "I like the guys on this team. I miss them sometimes. In Europe, it's a dog-eat-dog world, and everybody is fighting for his thing and no one cares about anyone else's life--especially now that I am at a big club where there's a lot of money. I feel a little bit isolated. I understand that it's my job, and I have to make a living. I'm sure there are people with a lot worse situations than I have. I'm not complaining, by any means."
Some players think they would love to have his problems, but Ramos keeps it all in perspective. He will concentrate this month and next on his second World Cup. After that, it's back to the day job.
World Cup Player at a Glance
Name: Tab Ramos.
Born: Sept. 21, 1966, Montevideo, Uruguay.
Weight: 140 pounds.
Club: Real Betis (Spain).
National team debut: Jan. 10, 1988, vs. Guatemala.
Caps (international matches): 50.
Little-known fact: Played two years in the former American Soccer League. Was an ASL all-star.
Honors: High school player of the year in 1983. All-American at North Carolina State, Atlantic Coast Conference top scorer in his senior year. A member of the 1988 Olympic team. Started all three U.S. games in the 1990 World Cup.