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Tim Ream makes good case for himself in first USMNT start in four years

photo by Stew Milne/USA Today Sports


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Four years ago, Tim Ream was given the start in the second game of the CONCACAF Gold Cup group stage. He had a great opportunity to impress his U.S. Men’s National Team head coach, but he turned in a subpar performance that would mark his last international start for nearly half a decade.

Fast forward to Friday night, and Ream found himself in similar circumstances. This time, however, he put together a 90-minute shift that will likely yield vastly different results for him.

Starting in his first U.S. match since June 11, 2011, Ream made a good case for himself by helping the Americans claim the top spot in Group A with a shutout win over Haiti. Ream and the entire back line had to overcome a nervy start in the 1-0 victory at Gillette Stadium, but eventually settled in to post the Americans’ first cleansheet in this Gold Cup.

From an individual standpoint, Ream showed off some of his trademark strengths. He passed well and demonstrated his good feel for the game. Ream also displayed the skills that he has honed since making his last U.S. start four years ago, taking up better defensive positions and holding his own in his individual match-ups.

“You grow as a player,” said the 27-year-old centerback. “Obviously I was only in the middle of my second year in MLS (when I last started for the U.S.), and being a professional, I think I’ve grown leaps and bounds, just the way I play, the way I position. Everything about my game has matured, especially with moving over and being challenged right away over in England. I definitely think I’ve gotten much better in every sense.”

Ream certainly looked far better than the player who gave up a naive and decisive penalty kick in a 2-1 defeat to Panama in 2011, the first and only Gold Cup group stage loss the Americans have had to date.

He pushed past a helter-skelter first 25 minutes against the aggressive Haitians and began to look comfortable next a fairly new centerback partner in Omar Gonzalez. Ream’s understanding and positioning were solid, and on one play in the first half he alertly drifted out from his spot to cut off an aerial ball that was being played down the open flank past left back Greg Garza.

You could not tell for large stretches that Ream was playing with a completely new back line, but you could see the defensive improvements that have seen him named the Player of the Year for Championship club Bolton in each of the past two seasons.

“Tim has good qualities. There’s no two ways about it,” said U.S. captain Michael Bradley. “Another guy with a soccer brain, reads things. For a centerback, his ability to play different kinds of balls forward with his left foot is special. He’s somebody who has really established himself at his club team as an important player, as a consistent player.

“In certain moments maybe he’s been a little bit unlucky to not have gotten more games with the national team, be it through the good form of other players or whatever it may be. But he’s another one who got a chance tonight (and) I thought he showed again what a good player he is.”

Jurgen Klinsmann stated that he thought Ream had an overall solid night, though the U.S. head coach noted that the first 20-25 minutes were tough for the defender and the rest of the back four.

Still, the complete performance that Ream put forth will likely give Klinsmann plenty to think about as the Gold Cup rolls along. Klinsmann started the tournament with the centerback tandem of John Brooks and Ventura Alvarado, but neither of the promising youngsters looked to have cemented a starting spot in the 2-1 win over Honduras on Tuesday.

“It’s great for the team when we can have, really when you look at this group, four centerbacks who are all able to play and step in and make sure that the team doesn’t miss a beat,” said Bradley.

Ream admitted on Friday that he hopes to have given Klinsmann something to consider when the manager sits down to decide who will fill the U.S. lineup in Monday’s group-stage finale vs. Panama.

Even if that is not the case, it will not take away from how happy Ream is to finally be back in the mix with the U.S.

“It’s been a long four years,” said Ream. “With my move over to Bolton, it’s all kind of come full circle now for me. I’m enjoying playing, I’m enjoying being with this group, and I’m enjoying being at the Gold Cup again.”


  1. Ream at CB with Cameron in the 6 spot would give us JK’s hoped for passing out of the back a lift, but Ream needs to be paired with a physical presence like Brooks, he doesn’t seem to be dominant in the air. I have liked what I’ve seen from Besler since he came into the team. Alvardo so far looks solid. To me the jury is still out on Omar at the int’l level. Shea has looked good at LB, Fabian locked RB during the WC, backline is looking pretty good, now if we had a mid-field….

  2. I’m glad he is back and has learned a lot…but I’m not ready to say he is passed Besler who is arguably the best passer in our Center Backs that have played for us…honelty only Cameron Carter-Vickers comes close…and he’s 17 lol

    But there seems to be a rift with Klinsmann after Besler’s comments out of the January Camp even tho I think he left him of this 23 because SKC didn’t want to lose both him AND Zusi, which is what happened last time. Ironically I think he will join the Nats in the knockout stages and Zusi has got to go… Ream had a giveaway in the box that turned into a wasted dangerous chance. Lets see what he does vs Panama or tougher opponents…I’m looking foward to seeing him vs Peru for example. But again I’m happy he’s progressing. I hope he sticks with CB and hopefully he can move to a team where he can START in either the EPL or maybe Germany, France or even Portugal…hell even Holland

  3. Based on what Ream has said, it would seem that he would agree with Klinsmann that US players are best served by going to play in a European league.

    • If JK followed his own advice, than Ream and Cameron would already have starting spots locked up for the foreseeable future.

      • Cameron has suffered from never locking down a position. And he has been inconsistent at best both Center Back and even worst at Right Back…he didn’t do all that well in Midfield outside of his in game shift there vs Jamaica in the 4th game of the 2013 Hex for the Brazil World Cup…it was the 1st of 3 games in June or around the early Summer time before the Gold Cup and after the Belgium & Germany friendlies…when he was the guy at Seattle vs Panama…he didn’t do well despite starting vs a very weakened Panama team with injuries & Suspensions…

  4. You could see Ream was playing for the US shirt last night . I rarely feel that is the case with Johnson and never feel that Chandler cares about the US shirt.

      • Johnson has the same disposition and intensity at his club team. He’s just a laid back guy.

        It’s funny to see that laid back guy go on those streaking runs up the field with a slightly sleepy look on his face while juking players and flying by them!

      • You know, sometimes Johnson looks even more laid back at his club. I have seen him lose the ball and walk back on several occasions.

        You can tell that he thinks that playing for the USMNT is playing at a higher level.

      • What do you mean, “nonsense”? He FEELS that way.

        What is it with the strong comeback of the misguided patriotism comments lately?

      • Didn’t realize that you were a mind-reader. But to better explain, he FEELS that the comment was nonsense.

    • What exactly does that mean? I imagine you mean someone who puts theteam first and cherishes the opportunity to represent the USA. Couple of thoughts: 1) how do you decide how others feel about representing the US? Do you talk with these guys? Do you know any of these guys? Have you spent anytime in their presence?

      2). You mean leaving your family and friends to travel to the otherside of theworld for 6 weeks during your offseason, in a climate that has to be extremely uncomfortable and hard to acclimate to…. All that isnt sacrifice enough for the shirt? I think maybe its to easy for us to sit behind a keyboard and make proclamamtions about people, situations, and strategies we know little if any about.

    • Astounding. We have another mind reader here at SBI. Nowhere else do I find so many people who claim to read the minds of people they have never met.

  5. Glad to see he has been recognised for his overall strong game.

    The USMNT defence (assuming 8 players with mix of wing backs) should be
    LB: Shea, Garza (I’d like Johnson on the wing and Zardes up top)
    “LCB”: Brooks, Ream (cover at LB)
    “RCB”: Gonzo, Alvarado
    RB: Yedlin (lets move him back and move Johnson up), Cameron (cover at “RCB”)

    In the mix: Belser, Chandler, Lichaj, Evans, Payne

  6. I’m happy Ream got his chance finally, it was well overdue. However, I believe that Jürgen has said in the past that he likes his LCB to be left footed and RCB to right footed. If he sticks with that statement it could mean Ream becomes a high quality reserve as Brooks is the CB to build around. But it’s a nice problem to have and Gonzales wasn’t bad either as his height gives us a great advantage in the air.

  7. I wonder if Klinsi would ever play two left footed center backs together. Would love to see what Ream and Brooks can do as a pairing.

    • I do not believe we are well served or will ever see to lefties out of the back. .The left back was Besler” to have but the commitment did not match up with the physical skills. I think Tim who I have always like for his read of the game , calmness and playing out of the back has passed Besler IMO

      • Yep. Ream >> Besler, in my opinion. He has greatly matured and improved during his time in England. So glad JK has brought him back in for another look. He is composed, reads the game better now, and quite good with the ball at his feet. He can also provide some depth at LB in a pinch. Hasn’t he also played as a CDM for Bolton?

      • He played CDM for RBNY and for Wanderers in the EPL before they went down. Team has got the goods and now that he’s got some seasoning he’s ready to make a mark in the into stage.

        Honestly surprised an EPL club did not come get him last year. I think he’s only got one/two year(s) remaining on his contract.

      • I think it comes down to speed: he’s not quite fast enough to deal with the level of strikers in the EPL. Having said that, he’s playing great and I’m happy for his success.

  8. Exactly. I was thoroughly impressed by Ream last night. A few spotty moments but this guy can clearly play the game. Hope he’s in the mix going forward.

    • His “spotty moments” were few and far between. Considering that, for whatever absurd reason, the back four were under siege for stretches, I think that a couple of spotty moments amid that craziness is acceptable. The midfield just let Haiti run at will at the back four…who didn’t allow a single goal.

      Ream really shines in his calmness and sureness on the ball. He has vision down the field and has great spacial awareness in transition. The more he plays with fast wingers like Zardes and Yedlin, the more likely it is that they will watch when Ream gets the ball so that he can play them up the wing with a long ball behind the outside backs.

      I like Ream better than Alvarado right now. Alvarado still gets beat in the air too easily and loses his mark on set pieces sometimes. Alvarado is still learning. Ream is more consistently secure back there. Give me Ream and Brooks in the middle.

      Another guy who looks good in this tournament: Brad Evans. His passing and movement in the back is very good. He’s an underrated player with a lot of passing ability and a mind for the game.

      • I have to admit, I want sure about Evans at RB but he did more than hold his own. He looked and into caliber defender. His offense contributions were limited to good passes out of the back but maybe he grows into an attacking threat as the tourney goes on.

      • Honestly, I’ve never been upset with Evans at rightback. While definitely not a starter, he does get the job done. He’s a very smart player, and that helps him out a lot.

      • You didn’t see him get turned left and right Friday? I mean don’t get me wrong he is doing better in this tournament than Chandler who simply doesn’t play well in Concacaf still….but I hope that changes because Chandler offers more at his regular form than Evans at his best. I kind of want us to see Yedlin back at Right back and have Fabian and Zardes in midfield with Garza at left back…we could even have Bedoya or Mix cover if Zardes is coming off the bench or is up top?

      • I have gone “no mas” on trying to guess what JK will do when picking players and starters. The obvious move was to play 10 or 11 starters from the Honduras game against Haiti to get the win and lock up advancement. Instead we got wholesale changes. Maybe JK was secretly fuming about all the chances Honduras got and replaced the entire back 4 and defensive mid, never mind that he went out of his way to publicly praise those players. I can only surmise JK has taken some management course that taught him to praise in public and criticize in private. Who knows?

        All that said, I am happy Ream got the start and agree that Ream looked very goo. I was also pleasantly surprised that Evans had as good a game as he did.

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