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Tim Ream hoping to take next step with USMNT by earning starting spot

Photo by Stew Milne/USA Today Sports


WASHINGTON — When Tim Ream walked out of Bolton Wanderers’ training facility a couple of Thursdays ago, he knew it was for the last time.

Queens Park Rangers and Fulham were locked in an intense bidding war for him that had been made public, and Ream felt he was ready to move onto the next challenge in his career regardless of where it was.

Even so, he was overcome with a bit of emotion and sorrow. Ream was saying goodbye to his adopted home and the first European club to take a chance on him, the club that helped him achieve success and provided him with many memorable career experiences.

“I was the very last one to leave that day, and the last one in the car parked,” Ream told SBI. “I just sat there in the car not really knowing what the next move would be but knowing that for myself and for my family that the next move was forward. I choked up a little bit, to be honest. It was a tough decision to leave after so many good years for myself, but one that I ultimately felt I needed.”

Ream pushed those feelings of sadness away quickly. He had to given that Fulham edged out QPR for his services and intended for him to play immediately, regardless of the fact that he had only recently recovered from a “dead-leg” injury that was sustained while playing for the U.S. Men’s National Team in the third-place game in July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Whereas some clubs might take a more cautious approach in such a scenario, Fulham had no qualms about throwing Ream right into the deep end. As a result, the 27-year-old defender knew he had to immediately focus and repay that confidence the club showed in him.

Still, Ream’s landing with the Cottagers was a surprise to him. After returning to Bolton following the U.S.’s largely forgettable Gold Cup showing, Ream had no communication with any club regarding a transfer for a week-and-a-half. He was concentrated on healing his injured leg in an effort to be ready for the Championship season.

Once he closed in on full health, Ream heard again about the interest from QPR. The Hoops had expressed interest in him early in the summer and made multiple efforts to try and agree to a transfer fee with Bolton. QPR eventually found the magic number and was close to finalizing a deal, but Fulham swooped in at the last second and turned a one-horse race into a tug-of-war.

Everything was pretty equal for Ream when it came to comparing the two “big” clubs, and it felt nice to be so wanted. One thing gave Fulham the edge, however.

Its well-known history with Americans.

“That was a big sticking point for me, the guys who have come before me, Brian McBride – being a St. Louis University guy, myself as well – and Kasey Keller and (Carlos) Bocanegra and (Clint) Dempsey,” said Ream. “You look at the guys who have played there and really had successful careers there and it really just felt right. With the way they’ve been treated and were welcomed with open arms and had such good careers there, it helped in the decision.

“There were a lot of things that go into it: footballing decisions, what they were doing off the field, the type of club that it is, the way its run, the way its organized. I mean, it’s a Premier League club in everything that they do, and when I saw that – QPR is also a well-run club – but the fact that they had so many Americans that have come before me there really put it over the top for me.”

With his club situation now taken care of, the 6-foot-1 Ream is once again setting his focus on the U.S. picture. He has been a part of several of Jurgen Klinsmann’s camps this year, but a more regular place on the roster has not translated into a regular place in the starting lineup.

Like at the club level, Ream wants to take that next step with the U.S. and knows the opportunity is there to be had. The centerback positions are wide open ahead of the all-important CONCACAF Cup match vs. Mexico in October, and the form he has demonstrated over the past two years at the club level suggests he is ready to seize the moment.

“He’s done really well,” said U.S. goalkeeper Tim Howard. “He’s got a move, I think he was the Bolton Player of the Year (the last two seasons). He’s obviously continued to develop. He gets his down, works hard. I see him week in, week out in England and at Bolton so it’s a credit to him.”

As well as he is playing, Ream knows personally just how challenging it can be to earn and keep a starting spot on the international level. Four years ago, Ream was a promising youngster new to the scene when he was thrust into a starting role for the Americans. He showed some initial promise in 2011, but then came the predictable costly hiccups that occur with most young professionals.

Ream fell out of the international picture shortly thereafter, returning only sporadically and serving as mostly as a depth player. Even his two real impressive campaigns with Bolton during the 2013-14 and 2014-15 seasons were not enough to see him earn more than just a few precious minutes here and there with the U.S.

He believes he is now better equipped for this opportunity, however. He has not only grown and matured as a player, adding more sound defensive skills and bite to his nice range of passing, but also as a person with a better perspective on life on and off the field.

“As a 27-year-old with a family, you start to see things a little bit differently. You see the bigger picture and what’s really important to you,” said Ream. “Being able to come in here and really not only representing your country but you represent your family and that’s something I didn’t understand at 22 years old or 23 years old, even.

“Now, going over to England and playing in such high-pressure situations, you know that at the end of the day, the only thing that matters is going home to your family and really what your manager thinks of you and if he trusts in you. It doesn’t matter — all the outside influences and all that comes with.”

If Ream can maintain his high level with the U.S. and avoid repeating the types of gaffes that proved his undoing four years ago, he will give himself as good of a chance as any to start in October’s clash with Mexico and in the World Cup qualifiers that are to follow.

That is exactly what he wants, too. Yes, being a more established part of the U.S. is nice, but Ream is hungry for more.

“You work so hard at your club to get in here and be recognized by the coaches here and to now have done that, it’s for me to take that next step and really perform well while I’m here,” said Ream.

“If you get a chance in games, you have to take it by the scruff of the neck and hopefully that puts you in a good position to then firmly place yourself not only in the squad as a whole but hopefully as a starter come the next camp and the next camp and the next camp.”


  1. Sad to think that Bolton has become a selling club – to teams in the Championship. A decade ago they were in the premiership with Anelka. Now they’re a shambles, bottom of the Championship table and dropping fast.

  2. Tim Ream kind of personifies the problem with the USMNT. Not to denigrate his ability or achievements, but he still is playing in the championship and doesn’t see the top level of play week in and week out that you get in a top 5 European league. So, he is good to very good at less than the top tier. And while that might be more than good enough when you are playing in the first round of qualifying, it isn’t always good enough when the US opposition increases in quality. We have quite a few players at that kind of level and not enough at the Fabian Johnson level. I was watching the Belgium v. Bosnia Herzegovina game today and you see players like Hazard, Kompany, DeBruyne, Dzeko, Panjic and many other established stars and you see how far the US still has to go. It certainly isn’t the same as a player having one good season in MLS and then being put into international play.

    • Mr. Page,

      You are correct. We are an OK,…but just don’t have those top level players. We have a huge advantage over many teams when it comes to financial resources and administration but on the field,…we just aren’t that good. No shame. The USSF has come a long way in 25 years and some day we may break through.

  3. Impressed with the technical quality of the US defenders we now have… Ream,Besler,Cameron,Alvarado,Brooks, Garza. They can actually pass and possess out of the back.
    Hard to believe it wasn’t too long ago that people were content to see a player like Gooch hoof the ball up the field.

  4. I’m glad Ream is playing well and has upped his game both for him and the US player pool. He shouldn’t count on call ups though as those are governed by the Klinsenburg Uncertainty Principal.

  5. Love that Ream is back in it. Gonna be quite the battle for CB. I feel like any combo of Ream or Besler on the left and Gonzales or Cameron on the right is an improvement. And actually I’ve always thought Orozco has played well when given chances as well.

    • I agree with your assessment but word out of camp is that Tim will be starting at LB, the role he reprised against Panama and one that I’m quite intrigued to see him in again because of his calmness on the ball and obvious passing ability. The one thing we don’t yet know is can he get forward effectively and put pressure on the defense.

  6. When it comes to our backline, it’s next man up until you prove yourself not worthy. As a fan, everyone seems to fit that bill once given enough playing time. Here’s to second chances.


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