Photos by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
TAMPA – Last November, Clarence Goodson and Tim Ream started together for the first time. The unveiling of the tandem came in a friendly they helped the U.S. team win 1-0 by blanking an experienced South Africa side playing at home.
Now, seven months later, Goodson and Ream are in the process of forming a formidable pair in the heart of the U.S. back line. One that is as balanced as it is unique.
In their first major start together this past Tuesday, the duo helped the Americans shut out a rival Canadian team comprised of talented attackers like Dwayne De Rosario, Josh Simpson and Simeon Jackson in a Gold Cup opener. For the most part, Goodson and Ream were strong in their challenges and both looked comfortable despite having limited experience playing together.
Where they truly excelled was in distributing the ball to the midfield and forwards with precise passes, something that helped the Americans dominate possession in a 2-0 win and something rarely seen from U.S. centerbacks in the past.
"We feel that it's a good combination," said head coach Bob Bradley following the U.S. team's win. "They played together in the friendly in South Africa, and as we've gone through training, we feel like the balance between the two is good. Even the second half against Spain in terms of their understanding, a lot of positives. For us, that was certainly one of the highlights of the night because I think it was a good game from both."
With experienced alternatives available for the game against Canada (such as Jonathan Bornstein and Oguchi Onyewu), Bradley could have opted for a much different back four. But that he had enough trust in Goodson and Ream to hand them starts in such an important match speaks volumes of how much he rates their ability to pass out of the back along with the confidence he has in them.
That trust has also produced a sense of self belief in them.
"It's huge (for) confidence," said Ream after Thursday's training in Tampa. "Whenever you can get minutes in general in an important game, it gives you more confidence and something to build on and work at it."
Goodson and Ream will need to continue to improve as they have a challenging test on Saturday against a Panama side that poses problems on several levels.
"They have some pretty talented players, some quick players, some guys that are really talented on the ball and tough to get the ball off of," said Goodson, who played against Panama in the 2009 Gold Cup. "We know we have to be honest."
Defending will be their primary objective in the second Group C match, but what makes Goodson and Ream unique is their ability to link the defense with the attack with accurate passes. That was on prime display against Canada, and is something the partnership will need to replicate in order to help the Americans get a win and qualification to the knockout stages of the tournament.
With the way the tandem has played so far in the early stages of its introduction, things look to bode well for the United States.
"It's gone well," said Ream following the victory over Canada. "Over the past week-and-a-half we've been in and out together (in training), sitting down with the coaches, him and I talking to them and discussing certain things.
"And the biggest thing is just enjoying playing next to him. I think we enjoy playing next to each other. … Communication is a big thing, too, and we communicate really well and I think that's definitely a big part of it."
What do you think of the Goodson-Ream centerback tandem? Think they are capable of leading the U.S. team to the Gold Cup final?
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