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 sign Neto in goalkeeper swap with Valencia

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BARCELONA, Spain (AP) Barcelona says Brazilian goalkeeper Neto will sign a four-year contract with the Spanish champions.

The transfer completes a swap a day after Barcelona sold Jasper Cillessen to Valencia.

Barcelona says it is paying 26 million euros ($29.5 million) plus possibly another 9 million euros ($10.2 million) in variables for Neto. Valencia paid Barcelona 35 million euros ($40 million) for Cillessen.

Neto will replace Cillessen, who played as a backup for Marc-Andre ter Stegen in the Champions League and the Spanish league and only regularly started in the Copa del Rey.

The 29-year-old Neto helped Valencia qualify for the Champions League with a fourth-place finish for the past two seasons in Spain. He also played in Italy at Juventus as a backup to Gianluigi Buffon and at Fiorentina after starting at Brazilian club Paranaense.

More AP soccer: https://apnews.com/apf-Soccer and https://twitter.com/AP-Sports

USMNT v. Panama: Three things we learned

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It wasn’t always pretty, but the U.S. Men’s National Team eked out a 1-0 win over Panama in Kansas City, Kan. on Wednesday night to win its group. Jozy Altidore scored the game’s only goal in stunning fashion, finishing an overhead kick to put Panama away and set up a quarterfinal bout with Curacao on Sunday evening.

Here are three of the biggest takeaways from Wednesday’s win:

[READ: All the latest USMNT news here]


Jozy Altidore is still the best we’ve got

Many U.S. Men’s National Team fans have called for the forced retirements of Altidore and Michael Bradley, among many others, after the debacle that was the last World Cup cycle.

Until tonight, Altidore wasn’t in the USMNT picture, in part due to Dave Sarachan using younger players and Altidore continuing to suffer a series of muscle injuries since October 2017. And yet, if tonight’s game showed anything in Altidore’s 83 minutes on the pitch, it’s that he’s still the best option for the USMNT up top. While Gregg Berhalter clearly prefers Gyasi Zardes right now based on their previous work history together in Columbus, Zardes doesn’t have the strength or skill that Altidore does. It’s hard to imagine Zardes executing an overhead kick and it going in as sweetly as Altidore did.

What does this mean going forward? Regardless of if Zardes starts the rest of the way, Berhalter knows that he has Altidore always around who can give the U.S. a goal, especially on home soil and when fit. But it also lays the marker down for Zardes, Tim Weah, Josh Sargent and the other up and coming strikers that this is the level they need to meet, and beat, if they want to break into the starting lineup under Berhalter.

There’s speed to burn on the wings

It may not have had a huge impact on Wednesday, but in bringing Tyler Boyd and Christian Pulisic off the bench, Berhalter showed exactly why he’s brought so many speedy skill players along the wings.

While Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis couldn’t figure out the final pass or final touch in the box to score a goal, just their presence for 65-70 minutes tired out the backline, and the introductions of Pulisic and Boyd could have really unlocked the Panama defense. While it didn’t totally work on Wednesday, it could in the later stages of the tournament, especially in a potential rematch with either Panama or Jamaica in the semifinals and Mexico in the finals.

With Lewis and Morris likely available off the bench, that adds a new piece opponents have to worry about, both in terms of speed and dribbling ability.

Few impressed in a chance to earn a starting spot

It’s been nearly two years since the debacle in Trinidad and Tobago, and yet aside from maybe Matt Miazga or Nick Lima, there have been very few players who have done much to impress and prove they’re better than the previous cycle’s players. That continued on Wednesday with an MLS-heavy lineup. Wil Trapp, a midfielder with so much promise a few years ago, appears to have stalled. He had multiple turnovers and certainly didn’t look as sharp as Michael Bradley.

While Lewis and Morris have plenty of pace, their final pass was woeful and they didn’t do themselves any favors. Djordje Mihailovic was never going to push Pulisic out of the starting lineup, but Mihailovic didn’t exactly do enough to say that he should be the first man off the bench either, or to push Pulisic into a wing role with Mihailovic in the middle.

Aside from Matt Miazga and Omar Gonzalez in the middle, along with Altidore up top, no one in the lineup really did enough through the first 65 minutes to warrant another start in the tournament. It’s yet another disappointment as young players get chance after chance to prove they belong as starters, only to waste the opportunity, enabling the veterans to keep their role. More players need to keep pushing for those spots, whether through club form or national team performances. Otherwise, we’ll end up in the same situation as before.

 

USMNT remains perfect, tops Panama to win group (video)

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In his first start since the U.S. Men’s National Team’s infamous defeat to Trinidad and Tobago, Jozy Altidore showcased his strength, speed and technical ability to help lead the U.S. to victory.

Altidore’s outstanding bicycle kick goal proved to be the difference in a sometimes dour game as the USMNT topped Panama, 1-0, Wednesday evening at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, Kan. The win kept the U.S. perfect through the Gold Cup group stage with no goals allowed, and it has somewhat erased the memory of the USMNT’s horrible run-up to the tournament, with defeats to Jamaica and Venezuela now firmly in the rear-view mirror.

[MUST-SEE GOAL: Jozy Altidore]

With the win, both teams head to Philadelphia for the quarterfinals this Sunday. Panama plays the undercard matchup against Jamaica while the USMNT faces Curacao.

Coming off two wins to open the Gold Cup, Berhalter decided to use a completely changed starting lineup, featuring ten players from MLS teams along with Chelsea loanee Matt Miazga. Although there was some familiarity of the players on the field, it was at times a very poor match, with the USMNT struggling badly in the final third and even turning the ball over at midfield or leading the attack.

Despite winning the possession battle, 62-38, the USMNT didn’t do much with it. Jordan Morris and Jonathan Lewis, both of whom were subbed out, struggled on their crosses after beating a defender. The pair provided energy and hard running defensively but it didn’t lead to many chances. Altidore had the best of the first half when he was played into the box, but his strike from the right just went wide of the net.

In the 65th minute, Berhalter tried to inject some life in the game with the introduction of Christian Pulisic. It turned out a goal could come just after, but without the intervention of Pulisic.

Djordje Mihailovic drilled the corner kick to the far post where it was met by the head of Matt Miazga who sent it back towards goal. A missed clearance from Panama popped the ball up in the air above the back post, allowing Altidore the time he needed to lift off the ground and bicycle kick it in for the game’s only goal.

Berhalter later brought on both Tyler Boyd and Gyasi Zardes off the bench to try and score an insurance goal, but Panama’s defense held strong and the U.S. failed to threaten the rest of the way. However, the U.S. backline kept a third-consecutive clean sheet and key players such as Michael Bradley got the entire game off to rest before likely returning to the lineup this weekend.

 

 

Must-See Goal: Jozy Altidore puts USMNT in front with Bicycle Kick

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Jozy Altidore put his stamp on the game and gave U.S. Men’s National Team coach Gregg Berhalter more to speak about with one fell swing.

Altidore finished off a corner kick in spectacular fashion, executing a perfect bicycle kick to put the USMNT up 1-0 in the 66th minute. The goal came one minute after the entrance of Christian Pulisic, which perhaps was on the mind of the Panama defense.

It was Altidore’s second-straight game vs. Panama with a goal. His last two were in October 2017, when the U.S. pummeled Panama, 4-0. Of course, a few days later, a tired USMNT failed to win at Trinidad and Tobago.