Tim Ream to ASN: "We Look at the Glass as Half Full"
August 28, 2017
WHIPPANY, N.J.—The start of 2017 was a chaotic time for the United States national team. Jurgen Klinsmann had just been fired as head coach and Bruce Arena was asked to clean up the mess. With qualifiers approaching and no time to experiment, Arena decided to rely on experienced veterans to get the team through a difficult period.
Arena traveled abroad for face-to-face meetings with key players. Shortly after January camp, he traveled to London to meet Tim Ream, a player Arena felt could provide a steadying presence in central defense.
Sure enough, when John Brooks suffered dehydration against Honduras in that March qualifier, Arena turned to Ream for the following game. Then, in June, with a pair of qualifiers scheduled with just two days rest in between, Arena gave Ream another important start at Estadio Azteca where he performed well as part of a five-man backline in a 1-1 draw.
Now with Brooks out for three months, Ream might see more critical minutes for the national team. While not considered one of the team’s stars, Ream has served an important role for the national team at key junctures.
“For Bruce to come over in late January to Fulham and speak with me personally was a huge deal,” Ream told American Soccer Now. “To be picked to start against Panama in my first call-up with the new staff showed their confidence in me. And then being able to translate that into a decent performance to get another shot in Mexico is huge.
"It's a confidence thing. They showed their confidence in me and I was doing whatever I could to repay that. It was a good performance by the team in Mexico and I felt comfortable on the field for 90 minutes. We had defined roles. We knew what our job was and we stuck to it.”
Ream is not the only player who stresses that there is positive feeling permeating the U.S. men's national team these days. He also is quick to point out how players know what is expected of them when they arrive in camp and what their role will be both on and off the field.
“It's just been different,” Ream said. “We've done some things differently and the vibe has been...a lot different with Bruce in there. It's been good. It's been positive. A lot of positive reinforcement and bringing in the right mix of guys. We put ourselves in a good position to qualify.
“Qualifying for the World Cup is by no means a guarantee but with the position we're in and the results going the way they have, even if we do find ourselves in a difficult spot, there is optimism there. We look at the glass half full. That comes from the top. Bruce and his staff have come in and put a plan in place.”
While many expect Geoff Cameron and John Brooks to be the top central defense pairing for the national team when everyone is healthy, Brooks’ latest injury will be revealing. Ream was not invited to be part of the Gold Cup team because after a long Championship season, Arena felt it was best for the St. Louis native to rest during his offseason. Fulham’s season was longer than usual due to the promotional playoffs, in which Fulham fell just short.
Matt Besler played well at the 2017 Gold Cup, manning the left-footed central defense role with confidence. It would appear that Ream and Besler are in a close race for a spot on the team.
If Ream gets the start on Friday night, he will do so in a very familiar setting: Red Bull Arena. Ream, a former All-American at Saint Louis University, began his professional career with the New York Red Bullsin 2010—the year the venue was first opened. He left after the 2011 season after securing a transfer to Bolton, then a Premier League team.
Tim Ream in 2010
“It was my first professional team,” Ream said of the Red Bulls. “I will always have some fond memories and some not-so-fond memories. But it's Red Bull Arena. It's one of the nicest soccer-specific stadiums in the United States. There are still a lot of people behind the scenes that were there when I was there. To be able to go back there would be nice. I was very comfortable there.”
But Ream is also very comfortable in London. And while he is looking forward to his homecoming in Harrison, N.J., he is not in any hurry to return to the States to continue his professional career. For him, there is still a lot to achieve in England.
When he first arrived at Bolton, Ream got a taste of the Premier League even though Bolton were eventually relegated. He gradually established a starting job at Bolton in the Championship and became one of the team’s best players despite poor management threatening another relegation to League One.
Ream sealed a transfer to Fulham in 2015 and has been a mainstay on the backline ever since. Last year he helped the club to a playoff spot but it could not advance to Wembley after a hard-fought loss to Reading over two legs.
Despite a slow start, Fulham hopes to contend for promotion again this season—a motivating factor for the veteran.
“I am enjoying my time,” he said. “It's been five-and-a-half years and it has gone by pretty fast. I feel personally and professionally that I haven't done everything I've wanted to do here. I do have a family and it does get more difficult to leave every summer. There has been interest from a few teams [in MLS] but it's never been to the point where I've said, 'I'm ready to come back.' It's not about money or how old I am. That doesn't play into it. It's more professionally I just don't feel I've achieved yet what I came over here to do. I feel like I can still do that for quite a few more years.”
And yes, he knows he is part of a dwindling group of Yanks playing in the United Kingdom.
“There is definitely a camaraderie,” he said. "We're all kind of flying the flag, really. There aren't too many of us here any more. But it's something we all have in common. When we're in camps it's something that we talk about quite often.”