BRIAN SCIARETTA - Saturday, January 22, 2011
When the US national team takes the field Saturday night at the Home Depot Center against Chile, the defense will likely be anchored by Tim Ream who is coming off an exceptional rookie season with the Red Bulls.
Ream, 23, is read to be a leader on the field against the talented Chileans after what he feels has been a very positive three week camp.
"Things are going well," Ream told YA. "I think from everybody's standpoint, everyone is happy. Just to be called in here in the first place is obviously an honor. To get an extended look, you couldn't ask for anything more."
Ream's season has already earned him a call-up from US head coach Bob Bradley who named the Saint Louis native to the roster for November's friendly against South Africa
In that game Ream started and played 67 minutes. He earned positive reviews and he was overall happy with his performance.
"I thought it was a shaky first 10-15 minutes," Ream recalled of his first cap. "But once I settled down I thought it went well – well enough to get another call. But you have to continue to build on what you've done all year."
Ream's rise began at the beginning of the 2010 MLS season when it became apparent that he was one of the best rookies in the class. He was a big part of the Red Bulls turnaround that saw them go from one of the worst clubs in the history of the league to making the playoff.
Ream attributes playing in the MLS to his development that has seen him become an international player after just one season.
"It speaks volumes about where the league is and where it's come from," the St. Louis native said of the league. "To get a call up as soon as your season ends after your first year is something special. It doesn't happen often. Obviously there are a lot of guys in the camp that were rookies this past season and got the call. It speaks volumes."
One reason why Ream has been able to make the transition from MLS to the international level is in large part because the tactics of Bradley match the tactics of Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe.
"They're kind of similar," Ream compared. "It's a lot of zone marking. You're not really following guys around. He likes to emphasize possessing the ball and keeping shape. I think that's the biggest reason why I was able to step in at New York and ultimately a reason why I am here right now."
Ream credits the Backe and his style for much of his success in 2010. The Swedish coach took hold of a struggling franchise and created an MLS club that plays and trains in a European type environment.
"He's a big reason why I am here now and why I grew as a player and got better as the year went on," Ream said of Backe. "It's definitely a European environment. There are a lot of guys who are European or have played over in Europe. Just the way they go about things is very European from what I understand from those guys."
Prior to the Red Bulls, Ream was standout at Saint Louis University and is also one of the few players in the national team pool that has played all four years of NCAA soccer. With most top players leaving college early or bypassing it altogether, Ream says he's conflicted about the NCAA's ability to develop international players but every player's situation is different.
"To be honest, I'm kind of in between," Ream said of college soccer. "In my case it took three years to fully develop into the player that I am today. Then you look at a guy like Eugene who went a year [at Stetson] and is doing great professionally. It just depends on the player."
For his second professional season, Ream knows he needs to improve in certain areas of his game if he wants to continue his rise to being one of the elite central defenders in the league.
"For me personally, I want to be a more physically imposing player and better in the air," Ream pointed out. "Also, I have the technical ability and the possession style but I just need to be aware more of everything that is going on around me instead of just focusing in on one or two different things."
As for what lies beyond 2011, Ream does admit that he has major ambitions to someday follow in the footsteps of Clint Dempsey, Stuart Holden, Maurice Edu, and Michael Bradley who were top MLS players that went on to have success in the elite leagues in Europe.
"Yes, absolutely," Ream said of interest to play overseas. "I think it's every kid's dream to first play for their national team and then play in a big league. Obviously MLS is growing and getting bigger but the biggest leagues are in Europe. If that day comes, great – but if not, I just have to keep working."
"I am happy in New York for now. I'll be happy until they decide to get rid of me," he concluded with a laugh.
Ream and the US national team will take on Chile Saturday night at the Home Depot Center in each team's first game of 2011.