EXCLUSIVE: Tim Ream signs for Fulham, USMNT defender says “it just felt right”

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EXCLUSIVE — After becoming the latest in a long line of U.S. internationals to sign for Fulham, central defender Tim Ream spoke exclusively to ProSoccerTalk about signing for the Cottagers.

Ream, 27, has signed a four-year deal with Fulham, and joins the Londoners from fellow Championship team Bolton Wanderers after joining the Trotters from Major League Soccer in 2012.

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The former New York Red Bulls standout admitted it was a tough choice to leave Bolton, a club where he has been voted Player of the Season by their fans in each of the last two campaigns, but is excited to be joining Kit Symons’ team in west London.

“Mixed emotions is a good way to describe it,” Ream said. “When I left Bolton’s training ground on Thursday it was surreal. I spent the last three-and-a-half years there and it has been home. I’ve met a lot of good people and created a lot of good friendships. It was one of the toughest decisions I’ve ever had to make but it is an exciting time.”

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It’s been a crazy few days for Ream and his agent from Global Premier Management, Patrick McCabe, as they’ve been back and forth from Manchester to London on numerous occasions for medicals and to try and agree personal terms with two different teams. Last week it looked like he was going to sign for Queens Park Rangers, who have just been relegated from the Premier League. But at the last minute Fulham matched QPR’s bid to Bolton, and Ream headed to Fulham’s Motspur Park training ground to thrash out personal terms with the Cottagers after being close to signing for the R’s.

“Again, it was another tough decision,” explained Ream. “The biggest thing was that the guys who have come before me. The American guys. [Brian] McBride. [Carlos] Bocanegra. Clint Dempsey. Eddie Lewis. Kasey Keller. All of those guys, seeing how well they’ve done at this club and seeing the type of history they have created, it seemed like the right fit. Walking into the training ground, it just felt right.”

Ream’s agent, McCabe, had the following statement on his client’s deal, as the last-minute nature of Fulham’s interest made things pretty interesting right up until negotiations had concluded.

“QPR had been tracking Tim for some time and they had been diligent in making offers. Fulham had also expressed strong interest but took a little longer to formally make an offer. So we just were not sure how things would play out,” McCabe explained. “For weeks, it seemed like QPR was the only suitor and Tim would have been happy to join them. When Fulham entered the picture, we evaluated everything and Fulham seemed to be a better fit for his future. There is a strong owner with Mr Khan and a defined culture at the club where many American players have enjoyed the best years of their careers. We hope that Tim can continue that trend. Chris [Ramsey] and Les [Ferdinand] were eager to have him at QPR but Tim made his preference known and a deal was struck.”

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Ream and his agent Patrick McCabe have had a busy week finalizing his move to Fulham.

After bursting onto the scene with the Red Bulls and being a finalist for the 2010 MLS Rookie of the Year, Ream moved to Bolton in January 2012 when they were in the Premier League. However, after initially acquiting himself well in the PL, Bolton and Ream were relegated to the second-tier less than five months after he arrived in England.

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That’s exactly where the left-footed center back has been ever since, with Bolton struggling to survive in the Championship in recent years. However, after joining Fulham Ream hopes he can help them push back up to the Premier League following their relegation in 2014.

“We are bringing in quite a few players and really going for it,” Ream said. “In this league you do have to spend a little bit of money to put yourself near the top and give yourself a chance to be promoted. You can say that about all 24 teams, that promotion is the aim, but we are really pushing for it. Getting back to the Premier League is the biggest goal. Obviously I wanted to do that with Bolton but it wasn’t meant to be. To have an opportunity and a chance to be promoted back to the Premier League is the ultimate goal. I think this move to Fulham gives me the best opportunity to do that.”

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Ream in USMNT action.

In terms of how this move aligns with Fulham’s large fanbase in America due to past players such as Carlos Bocanegra, Brian McBride and Clint Dempsey all calling Craven Cottage home for long parts of their careers, Ream is proud to be joining an illustrious list of Americans who have plied their trade down by the banks of the River Thames.

“Knowing and watching Brian McBride most of all, playing at the same University as him at St. Louis, I really followed his career and watched him do so well here for so many years,” Ream said. “Then with Clint [Dempsey] and Carlos [Bocanegra] carrying that torch after him, it definitely swayed me in that aspect, knowing how much history Americans have at this club and a history of doing well. That was the tipping point.”

This season Ream will be lining up with fellow U.S. international and the captain of the U-20 national team this summer, Emerson Hyndman, while the home jersey he will be wearing has “Visit Florida” as the sponsor. Fulham’s owner is American, Shahid Khan, and the businessman who also owns the Jacksonville Jaguars has big plans for the Cottagers if they make it back to the promised land. As for the future, the USMNT player hopes to continue to get opportunities to play for Jurgen Klinsmann’s side and has earmarked the upcoming friendlies in Washington D.C. against Peru on Sept. 4 and against Brazil at Gillette Stadium on Sept. 8 as key chances to impress if called upon.

“It doesn’t change much, you have to be playing week in and week out at a decent level and performing to be called in and that’s what I’m going to do,” Ream said. “Obviously there’s a bonus of being a little better off promotion wise. It doesn’t change what type of player I am. Hopefully it puts me in a good spot to keep getting in squads.”

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Ream is excited to become the latest American to call Craven Cottage home.

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Ream also revealed that he had spoken with Klinsmann about a any potential move “a few months back” and that the preference of the U.S. national team coach was for him to stay in Europe, specifically in England.

The defender has a young family and after spending almost four years in northern England, they will now get to live in London. He’s looking forward to the experience of being back in a bustling city and the center of the soccer world in England, and perhaps the world. While for fans of Fulhamerica across the United States, Ream is heading home.

“It is really exciting. I mean London is London… you don’t have to describe it any other way, do you?” Ream laughed. “It is like New York, it is on that level. There is so much history down here with the city and then you throw on top of that all the history with the club. It is an exciting time to be here and hopefully I will be here for many, many years,”

Barcelona plan Cruyff tribute at club’s training center

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) One year after his death, Barcelona says it will name the future stadium at its training center after Dutch great Johan Cruyff.

The new stadium at Barcelona’s training center just outside the Catalan city will be called “Johan Cruyff Stadium” in honor of the club’s former player and coach.

Barcelona says in a statement that “the most emblematic building in the facility where future Barca players are coached is to be named after somebody who played such a central role in fostering youth talent at the club.”

Barcelona also says it will commission a “commemorative sculpture” of Cruyff, who died of lung cancer on March 24 last year at age 68. The statue will be placed at Barcelona’s main Camp Nou stadium.

Cruyff is largely credited with launching Barcelona’s era of trophy success, both as a player and a coach.

As a player, Cruyff joined Barcelona midseason in 1973 and led the middle-of-the-table team to its first national title in a decade.

He later returned as a coach and guided Barcelona to four consecutive Spanish leagues from 1991-94 and the club’s first European Cup in 1992.

“I think the tributes are very warming,” said Cruyff’s son, Jordi Cruyff. “It sort of changes the sadness that we might feel as family to lose a father, a husband and a grandfather. It changes to a certain kind of pride to understand that he left something behind.”

MLS Snapshot: Defense optional — Crew SC outlast Timbers, 3-2

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The game in 100 words (or less): As far as teams who get out in the open field and score the lion’s share of their goals on the counter-attacking, there aren’t many MLS teams better than Columbus Crew SC and the Portland Timbers. The two sides met Saturday night at MAPFRE Stadium, site of their MLS Cup 2015 clash, and lived up to their reputations. Of the five goals scored, two were notched on flat-out counters and two more came to pass through quick transitional movements. Portland (9 points) dropped their first points of the season, falling 3-2 to goals scored by Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Niko Hansen, while Crew SC have back-to-back wins and find themselves level on points (7) with the New York Red Bulls with each side having played four games.

[ MORE: Saturday’s MLS (afternoon) roundup ]

Three Four Five moments that mattered

4′ — Asprilla opens the scoring early on — 2017 Crew SC defending, same as 2016 Crew SC defending.

11′ — Meram fires home the rebound for 1-1 — One of Portland’s biggest weaknesses last season was their set-piece defending. Looks like not much has changed.

19′ — Higuain feeds Kamara for a 2-1 lead — The question mark that Portland will eventually have to answer is this: How much, if at all, have they improved defensively in the open field? Based on this Crew SC counter-attack, the answer might be “not much.”

45+3′ — Adi recovers to make it 2-2 — Everything Adi does these days (even the bad things, like this first touch) ends up being good.

84′ — Hansen cleans up at the back post for 3-2 — Jake Gleeson made a spectacular reaction save to deny Kamara his second goal of the game, but the rookie, making his MLS debut, was in the right place at the right time.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Men of the match: Wil Trapp

Goalscorers: Asprilla (4′), Meram (11′), Kamara (19′), Adi (45+3′), Hansen (84′)

Andorra’s 11-year, 58-game losing streak is over

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Rarely has a scoreless stalemate in front of the home fans tasted so sweet.

But 11 years of nothing but losing will do that to a team.

Andorra’s 0-0 draw with fellow minnow Faroe Islands in World Cup qualifying on Saturday ended its run of 58 competitive defeats.

It was the first point in qualifying for the Pyrenees mountain principality, population 80,000, since a scoreless draw with Finland in 2005.

Faroe Islands finished with 10 men after Joan Edmundsson was booked a second time with 15 minutes to play.

World Cup qualifiers: Dutch disaster persists; Greece hold Belgium

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A roundup of all of Saturday’s World Cup qualifying fixtures, as Groups A, B and H hit the halfway point in Europe…

[ MORE: USA 6-0 Honduras | Three things we learned | Player ratings ]

Bulgaria 2-0 Netherlands

Spas Delev scored both Bulgarian goals (5th and 20th minutes) to secure all three points and send Danny Blind’s Netherlands side (7 points) into fourth place in Group A, six points back of leaders France and three back of second-place (qualifying playoffs) Sweden.

17-year-old Matthijs de Ligt was handed his international debut for the Dutch; he was ultimately at fault for both of Delev’s goals; he was subbed off at halftime (as was Georginio Wijnaldum).

Luxembourg 1-3 France

Olivier Giroud scored twice (28th and 77th minutes) for France, and Antoine Griezmann added the other (37th minute – penalty kick), as Les Bleus maintained their three-point lead in Group A. Kylian Mbappe, Monaco’s 18-year-old rising star, made his international debut in the 78th minute, when he replaced Dimitri Payet.

Portugal 3-0 Hungary

Cristiano Ronaldo bagged the 69th and 70th goals of his international career (36th and 65th minutes), as Portugal (12 points) kept pace with an unbeaten Switzerland side (15 points) which managed a 1-0 victory over Latvia to keep their 100-percent record intact. Andre Silva scored the opener (32nd minute) for Portugal, the 21-year-old Porto striker’s fifth goal in six international appearances.

Belgium 1-1 Greece

Romelu Lukaku‘s 89th-minute rescued a point for Group H leaders Belgium (13 points), but it did little to mask an otherwise uninspiring performance from Roberto Martinez’s side. Kostas Mitroglu put Greece ahead in the first minute of the second half, but Panagiotis Tachtsidis saw his second yellow of the game in the 65th minute, and that was the start of Greece’s unraveling. The draw was just enough to keep Greece (11 points) in second, ahead of Bosnia-Herzegovina, whose 5-0 thrashing of Gibraltar moved them to 10 points with a superior goal differential.

Elsewhere in UEFA’s World Cup qualifying

Group A

Sweden 4-0 Belarus

Group B

Switzerland 1-0 Latvia
Andorra 0-0 Faroe Islands

Group H

Bosnia-Herzegovina 5-0 Gibraltar
Cyprus 0-0 Estonia