Ream Returns to Where It All Began

Photograph by Matt Kremkau

US logoHARRISON, N.J. — United States and Fulham defender Tim Ream was asked about his positive and negative memories from his days, early in his professional career, with the New York Red Bulls.

“I won’t discuss the not-so-great memories because they involved particular players and I won’t single them out because I’m not like that,” Ream said at Red Bull Arena on Thursday morning as the American team was about to run through its final training session before Friday night’s CONCACAF World Cup qualifier against Costa Rica.

For a U.S. Soccer video feature, Ream took the high road and talked about what it felt like to return to the New York metropolitan area after so many years in England, first with Bolton Wanderers and now along the banks of the Thames River at Fulham’s Craven Cottage stadium.

After being drafted by the Red Bulls out of St. Louis University, his hometown, in 2010 Ream quickly nailed down a spot in central defense during the regime of Coach Hans Backe. Later that year, the Red Bulls acquired the Mexican international Rafael Marquez on a free transfer from Barcelona. All seemed to go swimmingly for the American and Mexican defenders until late in the 2011 season, when Marquez went public with his criticism of the team, in general, and of Ream, specifically.

“If you watched the game, there were individual errors that you can’t do anything about, if we look at statistics, I stole a lot of balls,” Marquez said after a bad showing against Real Salt Lake. “I think I made two or three bad passes out of 30 plus attempts. I almost didn’t commit any errors, so I am not worried. I think I am playing at my maximum level, and doing everything I can. I don’t have, unfortunately, four defenders on my level that can help me out.”

He then took a shot at Ream, saying: “Tim is still a young player with a lot to learn. He still has quite a lot to learn, and well, he has committed errors that are very infantile and cost us goals.”

Asked about his good memories from his days in Major League Soccer, Ream mentioned being on the field when the Red Bulls opened their new stadium against Santos, then played the first league match against Chicago. On the down side, crashing out of the playoffs against San Jose.

Then he got around to the Marquez incident and the positives that resulted.

To a certain extent it was constructive criticism,  just done in a wrong avenue,” he said. “I was a bit naive, no doubt about it. It helped me to grow as a player and as a human being and to realize what avenues to take to speak to other guys on the team; and what avenues not to take. It helped me to grow as a player and cut out things that were costing the team at the time.”

He acknowledged that the level of “constructive criticism” was always present in England, “but it’s different.”

“Over there it’s kept in house in the locker room, not in the press and the papers,” he said. “That’s something that’s necessary to be held accountable. I understand that now better than I did when I was a 23-year-old kid. You take it and you grow and you move on.”

Though he has established himself as a dependable central defender in the League Championship, one tier down from the Premier League, Ream remains more of a role player with the U.S. On Thursday, Coach Bruce Arena said he sees Ream as a central defender, not a player who could play out wide on the left. That leaves him behind the probable tandem in central defense of Geoff Cameron and Omar Gonzalez, and possibly Matt Besler as well.

It may be a difficult realization for a guy who has carved out a pretty decent career in London.

Asked about his role with the national team, he said, “Good question.”

“I’d like to say that, personally, I want to be starting games,” he said. “But with the national team, you may be a starter with your club team, but when you  come in with national team you have to temper your expectations and take on a different role. Right now I’m one of those next-man-up types. For me to be the next man up means I have to come in and show that my ability can help that squad. It’s something that right now I’m well aware of and I’ve embraced it, and it’s what you have to do in a team.”

And while Marquez is dealing with some weighty problems of his own these days, Ream, 29, appears calm, content. composed and secure about his current place at Fulham — and in the red, white and blue.

Notes

U.S. Coach Bruce Arena was again asked what it’s like to come back to New York, his hometown (though he grew up on Long Island) for a national team game. He again mentioned that the match is in New Jersey. “But look, its a great venue for the U.S. team,” Arena said. “I was here with the Red Bulls 10 years ago. We need to embrace New Jersey.” It was mentioned that the facilities — the club used to play at Giants Stadium and train at Montclair State University — have changed, and changed for the better. “Our practice facility was worse than the one we had in college,” when Arena was the coach at Virginia. “Obviously, the league has improved its facilities greatly.” … The U.S. is unbeaten in the 14 games (9-0-5) since Arena returned to coach the U.S. after Jurgen Klinsmann was fired late last year. … The U.S., after starting so poorly in the Hex, could actually qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia after the next two games should things go its way. On Friday, the U.S. would have to beat Costa Rica, Trinidad and Honduras would have to draw and Mexico would have to defeat Panama. Then on Tuesday, the U.S. would clinch if it wins at Honduras, and Trinidad defeats Honduras. … The U.S. has a 6-1-2 record at home against the Ticos in qualifying matches. … Seven Costa Rica players play in MLS: Cristian Bolaños and Kendall Waston (Vancouver), Francisco Calvo and Johan Venegas (Minnesota), Rodney Wallace (New York City FC), Marco Ureña (San Jose) and David Guzmán (Portland).