Ream & Aaronson highlight diverse career paths on the USMNT
May 26, 2021
THE UNITED STATES national team is currently assembled in Switzerland ahead of Sunday’s friendly against the hosts followed by the final rounds of the Nations League next week. The roster consists of European-based players, domestic-based players, and players of a variety of different backgrounds, career paths, and ages.
Two players who best show the difference of the players currently in camp are Brenden Aaronson and Tim Ream.
Tim Ream, 33, is the only player on the team born in the 80’s. The highlights of his career have been being a stalwart of two successful promotional efforts in the Championship – which is no small feat, but it also lacks the glamour of the Champions League or contending for silverware in Europe’s top leagues. Ream has been named his team’s player of the season three separate times, for two different teams, in England’s second tier. He is very successful in the game’s most grinding environments and as a defender, typically stays out of the headlines. He has seen two promotions and three relegations in England.
Brenden Aaronson, 20, was born after the millennium and is one of the players who emerged after Christian Pulisic and Weston McKennie to continue the wave of promising young American players. Like Ream, he started his career in MLS but Aaronson is a product of a more modern era of the league that has a higher level of play, features talented young players coming out of academies, and is part of the wave which has followed the decision of many of the league’s teams to embrace selling. He departure was well embraced by the league, the fans of Philadelphia Union, and by fans of the U.S. national team.
Aaronson is also an attacking player who has now won silverware at a young age. First it was the Supporters Shield with Philadelphia. Then it was followed by walking into the starting lineup at Red Bull Salzburg, and unlike Ream whose first steps in Europe were in a relegation fight, Aaronson was put into a position where he could succeed immediately. The month of May began with him winning the Austrian Cup and a week later, the Austrian Bundesliga.
Aaronson is young an has seemingly known only success, so far, and his trajectory will likely have him play in the Champions League this year and then possibly head to the high levels of the German Bundesliga, sooner than later. Meanwhile Ream has the battle scars of life at the top of Championship and the bottom of the Premier League.
Still, both add value to the United States national team.
For Ream, he never imagined himself as the veteran player on a team, but he is both embracing and benefitting from it.
"I am relishing the opportunity to lead this group of players," Ream said from Switzerland. "I don't think I ever envisioned - being the oldest guy on the team and being that old guy everyone kind of looks up to and asks for advice, talking about relegations and promotions. I never pictured myself in that situation. I find myself here now and I really enjoy it. I love coming in with these guys. In a way they keep me young, they keep me fit, they bring energy. I feed off that as much as they feed off my experience."
Aaronson, meanwhile, is looking to use what he learned from the winning experiences the past six months dating back to the end of the 2020 MLS season and the second half of the Austrian Bundesliga to bring that to the U.S. national team and perhaps add a Nations League trophy to his rapidly growing collection.
In total, he is one of nine players on the roster that has combined for a total of 12 trophies in Europe.
"I don't think that's been done before," Aaronson said of the silverware won by his USMNT teammates recently. "Then you see where players are playing at, winning big trophies. It's a really big step in U.S. football. I am really excited with this group of guys and I want to win a trophy with this group. That is the main focus for everyone here. I think everyone is really focused and ready to go. This Nations League is big and we can meet Mexico in the final. I am confident and ready to go. I think the team is too."
While Aaronson is still somewhat new to the U.S. team and thus far has only played under Gregg Berhalter, Ream is a veteran who earned his first cap under Bob Bradley and has featured under all other subsequent managers.
Ream is not simply brought on for his advice, he remains a capable player and recently captained Fulham to a 1-1 draw against Manchester United at Old Trafford. But he is also aware that other players are arriving into camp on the heels of relegation. His Fulham teammate Antonee Robinson is also being sent down, Matthew Hoppe is on the roster for the Switzerland friendly and his Schalke team finished last in the Bundesliga, and perhaps most significantly, key forward Josh Sargent also suffered relegation with Werder Bremen.
The advice Ream gives to Sargent and others is that relegation won’t define a player, but rather it is how the player responds.
“I think in a way it makes you stronger,” Ream said. “It knocks you down a bit but it's not being knocked down that defines you…The best advice is that it doesn't define you as a player. You can't let it affect you negatively. You have to look at it as a learning experience or as a growth experience and learn what you can do to avoid relegation the next time through.”
“Does he stay and battle it out and try to earn promotion?” he continued on Sargent. “Or does he make a move to a more established team and start all over again? There is no right or wrong answer. I am proof of that. You can stay, and if you have a solid team around you, you can bounce right back.”
Following Nations League, Ream and Aaronson will take a break and return for an important season for each player.
Aaronson will return to Austria and begin life under a new manager in Matthias Jaissle – who will replace American Jesse Marsch who will take the job at RB Leipzig. Jaissle, coincidently, is younger than Ream.
There has been a lot of speculation as to what is next for Aaronson and when he will transfer. For now, Salzburg seems inclined to sell a major portion of its starting lineup which likely means he will be looked to be one of the team’s leaders as it looks to win a fifth straight Austrian title and make a run in the Champions League under a new manager.
"Jesse helped but I don't think he treated me as an 'American guy,’” Aaronson said. “I had to go in there and I got the trust of my teammates, which is huge, then the coach. Now I have to do that with a new coach."
“For now, I am focused on Salzburg,” he added. “We have a big season coming up. We have the playoff games for the Champions League, and the Champions League is the top of the top - it is something I am focused on and I really want to get into that…I am not really focused on transfers. I am extremely happy with where I am at right now. I am in the perfect spot to continue to get better as a player, test myself, and go from there.”
As for Ream, he will return to the Championship and once again look to promotion. While many questions remain about the roster, Ream is confident there could be success.
The St. Louis native is also aware of the point he is at in his career. He had begun the process of attending coaching classes (but the process was derailed due to COVID and the inability to work with teams as part of his licenses process) as a possible route to take after his career. He also said that he considers a return to MLS more than in the past while quickly adding he still has a desire to be in England.
“I love the daily grind and the constant pressure,” Ream said. “I joke with friends and family that the Championship takes years off your career. I’ve said for the past couple years that I feel like I could go until I’m 37-38 - so imagine if I wasn’t playing in the Championship as long as I have. It’s difficult... It’s all about taking care of yourself, doing the right things off the field, and making sure you recover properly.... If you do that, and you have a little bit of luck on the way injury-wise, you put yourself in a good place to be a big part of a promotion-winning team.”