Tim Ream: Calm, confident, on to Wembley

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“Yes. Simple answer, yes.”

With a match at Wembley on the horizon, Tim Ream is in the form of his life – he knows it, and he isn’t afraid to admit it. The 30-year-old American defender is just now reaching his peak, in stunning form at Fulham.

“I’ve played 46 games now [this season], and the performances and form that I’ve been on – not just from the start of the undefeated run, but going back to the beginning of the year,” Ream told NBC Soccer, “I don’t think there’s anybody that can question the level that I’ve been playing at and question whether it’s the best in my career, because it is without a doubt.”

Ream, in his third season at Fulham and second under manager Slavisa Jokanovic, isn’t really sure why his form is peaking now, but he’s not complaining. “It’s funny because I’ve not changed as a player. I’m no different than I was five years ago to now. I’ve probably honed my positioning sense a little bit more, but that’s always been one of my strengths.”

[ MORE: Jurgen Klinsmann believes U.S. could have made World Cup semifinals ]

Fulham’s not complaining either. The unbeaten streak he referenced earlier was a 23-match Championship run that spanned from late December through the penultimate game of the season. It is easily the longest unbeaten run in Fulham history, and it surpassed Manchester City’s 22-match streak to start the year as the longest in English professional soccer this season.

Tim Ream has been in stellar form all season for Fulham, helping them earn a spot in the Championship Playoff final (Photo by Dan Istitene/Getty Images)

All that has Fulham in position to make a return to the Premier League for the first time since relegation in 2014, and Ream has been at the heart of it all. The St. Louis product has been Fulham’s most consistent player this season, owning the second-most minutes played on the squad this season behind only 17-year-old phenom Ryan Sessegnon.

The year Ream arrived at Craven Cottage, Fulham conceded an enormous 79 goals, two off the most in the Championship that season. Since, they have buttoned up more the back each campaign, conceding 57 goals in 2016/17 followed by just 46 this year. Ream believes that his ability to execute the beautiful, possession-based style under Jokanovic has led to not just team success, but also his own personal improvement. “The system helps – the style that we play – it helps. When you’re in a system and you play a style that we do, that’s already a strong point of my game, naturally you’re going to play better.”

Fulham owns 55% possession of the ball this season – the tops in the Championship – out-passing every single team in the league by nearly 4,000 completed passes, while completing them at a league-high 83% success rate. Given that, Ream has not only been the lynchpin of the Fulham’s defensive efforts, he is also vital to the club building from the back. The American has the 3rd-most completed passes in the entire Championship, bested only by Fulham’s own midfield partnership in Kevin McDonald and Stefan Johansen.

[ MORE: PST’s Premier League Best XI for the 2017/18 season ]

“Everybody [in the squad] knows what we’re doing,” Ream said, “and we all know where we need to be, and we know where the guy next to us is going to be, where the guy in front of us is…and you’re almost playing on instincts. You know you can put a ball into an area and there is going to be a guy there. It makes the players look very good.

“Players would be lying to you if they said they didn’t want to play in the system we play. We like to possess the ball, and we do it in the right areas, but at the same time we do it from back to front and front to back, and we don’t hide that.”

It wasn’t always like this. Last season, the team finished sixth in the Championship table, but seemed to sputter in big moments and at times struggled to break down more defensive opponents who were comfortable sitting back and absorbing pressure. Even at the beginning of this season, the club was missing a cutting edge, ultimately leaving themselves a big enough hole that even a 23-match unbeaten streak couldn’t pull them completely out of. Jokanovic has taken his time to let the system take hold, and it finally appears to be taking off.

“The Sunderland result when we lost at their place in December was a real eye opener for us. They hadn’t won at home in over a year and we go there and lose 1-0. If I had to point to anything, that was the catalyst for the turnaround because we were so embarrassed and so angry at ourselves because we knew we were a better squad than we were showing. From there, it was kind of just an upward rise from then on. We went and beat Cardiff on Boxing Day and just kept the confidence rolling and were performing very well, and the rest is history.”

With Ream in such good form at 30 years old, it stings a bit that he isn’t able to earn a spot on United States World Cup roster. But he also has a glass-half-full view of his current national team situation. “Obviously it’s a disappointment, but on the other hand, you look at it…would I have been worried about whether I was going to make it or not, whether I was going to be in the squad? Would that have played in my mind? Would I have started putting extra pressure on myself and started to kind of go off the rails with my club? You just don’t know.

“It’s obviously disappointing that I’m on the form that I am and there’s no World Cup, there’s no doubt about that. But you just never know. There’s so many variables.”

At age 30, however, his national team story isn’t over just yet. Ream confirmed he has spoken with interim national team manager Dave Sarachan as recently as within the last three weeks, and is leaving the rest to fate. “At the end of the day it’s not up to me. I can only do what I’m doing here, which is play on a weekly basis and play well, and if that gets me called in then that gets me called in.

Tim Ream played a bit role in the USMNT’s failed 2018 World Cup qualifying bid, but hopes to get more opportunities in the future.

“Do I think I could help [the national team]? Yeah of course. Do I think I could help some of the younger players? Absolutely. But at the end of the day that’s not my decision to make.”

Ream isn’t really focused on all that right now though, because his job at Fulham this season isn’t done. Not just yet. The team still has “the hundred million dollar game” to play, matching up with Aston Villa at Wembley Stadium on May 26 in the Championship Playoff final. Everything could be undone with a loss.

“I don’t think it’s really set in with all the guys here what it means to play there, what it means to the club, to the fans, to everyone associated with Fulham,” Ream said. “It’ll be a special occasion and we have to go out there and prove that we’re worthy.”

Cup finals are different from regular season games, and Ream’s ready to take the form he has built up this season and put it to good use. He knows his team will need him at the back, now more than ever.

“You kind of have to approach the beginning of the game a little differently. I think it’ll be a cagey first 20 minutes, kind of feeling each other out. The game’s probably not going to open up until probably 30 minutes and even moreso in the second half. Listen…you go out there and you don’t play to not lose, you play to win, so we can’t just sit back and hope for the best. We have to go and do what we’ve been doing the second part of this season, and hopefully that puts us in a good position.”

That big game could have big implications not just for Fulham but Ream as well moving forward, and he’s excited. “It’s amazing what confidence can do, and a manager who has confidence in his players and tells them to go out and pass the ball and possess the ball without any fear of making mistakes…you can’t overstate that at all.”

Dream debut for Dyche as Everton stuns Arsenal

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The Sean Dyche era at Everton got off to the perfect start as they stunned Premier League leaders Arsenal at Goodison Park.

Everton were joint-bottom of the table at the start of play and beat the leaders to secure their first Premier League win since October. The new manager bounce was monumental.

FULL MATCH REPLAY

After taking charge earlier this week, Dyche’s side were excellent as James Tarkowski headed home Dwight McNeil’s cross as the former Burnley duo combined to get the former Burnley manager off to a winning start as Everton boss.

Arsenal were sluggish throughout and Mikel Arteta’s side just couldn’t make the energy and tempo of Everton’s play.

The win moves Everton on to 18 points for the season, while this defeat is just Arsenal’s second of the campaign as they remain five points clear atop the table.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


Stars of the show

Dwight McNeil: Superb display as he whipped in crosses, worked so hard defensively and did his best to support Calvert-Lewin.

James Tarkowski: Got the goal, defended resolutely and delivered a big moment for his former Burnley boss.

Everton vs Arsenal
Graphic via FotMob.com

Everton vs Arsenal live! Score, updates, how to watch stream

Kick off: 7:30am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com

Zinchenko blasts a shot from the edge of the box over the bar. Lovely corner from Saka to pick him out but the shot was a tough one to keep down.

Saka has a shot deflected over. Arsenal running out of time.

Pickford with a good stop. Arsenal pushing hard for the equalizer.

GOALLL! James Tarkowski puts Everton ahead. Wow. 1-0 to the Toffees. Can Arsenal respond?

Second half is underway! Arsenal pushing hard for the opener.

OFF THE LINE! A high cross to the back post finds Bukayo Saka and he brilliantly volleys the ball towards the bottom corner but Conor Coady gets back on the line to clear. Superb play by all involved.

CLOSE! Another massive chance goes begging as Dwight McNeil whips in a cross and Doucoure heads wide when he should do better. Sean Dyche applauds from the sidelines. Goodison roars.

CHANCE! Incredible play by Amadou Onana to surge down the left and he crosses for Dominic Calvert-Lewin who is sliding in and two yards out. He can’t get enough on the ball and a huge chance goes begging for Everton.

Eddie Nketiah lashes wide after being played in and that sort of sums up Arsenal so far. They haven’t been able to get in-behind Everton and everything seems a bit rushed from the Gunners.

Excellent so far from Everton. They are defensively sound but have a purpose when they go forward. The home fans are loving the start of the Sean Dyche era.

CLOSE! After a lengthy delay as Bukayo Saka went down after getting a knock in the face, Everton have plenty of corners and Arsenal are digging deep to head crosses away at the back post.

CLOSE! Positive move from Everton as Dwight McNeiil surges towards goal and his low effort is smothered by Aaron Ramsdale with Calvert-Lewin lurking. DLC was just offside but that was good from the hosts.

Bright start from the hosts who look very organized in their 4-5-1 formation and are looking to get it up to Dominic Calvert-Lewin as much as possible.

KICK OFF: The action is underway at Goodison Park! The home fans are right behind their team, and new manager, Sean Dyche. Is he the right man for the job? Can he keep Everton up? Our analysts discuss and are very positive about Dyche’s appointment at Goodison.


Key storylines & star players

Is this what Dwight McNeil has been waiting for after stop-start usage from Frank Lampard? He’s one of the key pieces to monitor when team news arrives Saturday.  Everton hasn’t played since Jan. 21, when it rolled out a 5-4-1 in a 2-0 loss to West Ham. Dyche hasn’t used five at the back since 2019, but this Arsenal team, man…

Arsenal enters having navigated the absence of Gabriel Jesus pretty darn nicely, thank you very much. Will Eddie Nketiah keep feasting off the playmaking of Martin Odegaard and Bukayo Saka?

Let’s just say Everton’s new manager bounce is going to have to include Flubber.


Everton team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Michael Keane (knee), Nathan Patterson (knee), Andros Townsend (knee), James Garner (back)

Arsenal team news, injuries, lineup

OUT: Gabriel Jesus (knee), Reiss Nelson (thigh), Mohamed Elneny (knock), Emile Smith Rowe (thigh)

Manchester United vs Crystal Palace, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Manchester United looks to keep climbing up the Premier League table when its hosts improving Crystal Palace at Old Trafford on Saturday (watch live, 10am ET online via Premier League on Peacock).

United has won all three of its cup matches since a Jan. 22 setback at Premier League leaders Arsenal, and now face Palace before two matches with Leeds

STREAM LIVE MANCHESTER UNITED vs CRYSTAL PALACE

Palace hasn’t won in 2023, though the Eagles managed back-to-back draws with Manchester United and Newcastle in their past two matches. Both of those were at Selhurst Park.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Manchester United vs Crystal Palace.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Manchester United vs Crystal Palace live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Man United’s lost Christian Eriksen through April but acted quick and in impressive fashion with the loan addition of Marcel Sabitzer from Bayern Munich. Desperate for playing time and a more attacking role than what was asked of him by Bayern, the Austrian star may be just what the doctor ordered even before Eriksen went down. This is a hard-edged player with plenty of attcking firepower to boot.

Palace, of course, is still all about their creative players, as Wilfried Zaha, Michael Olise, Eberechi Eze, and Odsonne Edouard can deliver the goods with just a half-chance, but look out for Deadline Day adds Albert Sambi Lokonga, on loan from Patrick Vieira’s former team Arsenal, and Naouirou Ahamada, who they hope will add a needed ball progressor in the heart of the pitch.


Manchester United team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Christian Eriksen (ankle), Donny van de Beek (knee), Mason Greenwood (suspension – MORE) | QUESTIONABLE: Jadon Sancho (undisclosed), Anthony Martial (undisclosed), Diogo Dalot (thigh), Luke Shaw (illness), Scott McTominay (undisclosed)

Crystal Palace team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Wilfried Zaha (hamstring), Joachim Andersen (calf), Nathan Ferguson (undisclosed), James McArthur (groin)

Aston Villa vs Leicester, live! Score, updates, how to watch, stream, videos

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Aston Villa can stick its nose into the top seven discussion with a win over Leicester City, who is flying well below its normal radar this season as it heads to Villa Park (watch live, 3pm ET on USA Network and online via NBCSports.com).

Villa’s season has surged forward since it parted ways with Steven Gerrard. Villa won its next match, a 4-0 defeat of Brentford, then hired Unai Emery and since boasts a 5W-1D-2L record.

STREAM LIVE ASTON VILLA vs LEICESTER

Thar has the Villans in 11th but just three points off sixth, eight behind fifth-place Tottenham who’s played a further game.

Leicester’s 35 goals allowed are fewer than only one team, Bournemouth, and level with two others as the Foxes have struggled to find ways to keep opponents off the board. Leicester sits 14th with 18 points, but that’s just a point off the bottom three.

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Aston Villa vs Leicester.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Aston Villa vs Leicester live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
TV Channel: USA Network
Online: Stream via NBCSports.com


Key storylines & star players

Ollie Watkins has scored or assisted in five of his last eight appearances for Villa in the Premier League and Emiliano Buendia has a pair of goals in his four PL starts since the calendar turned 2023.

Is James Maddison fit to start? The England midfielder missed four-straight games for Leicester, all losses, before returning for the final 21 minutes against Brighton on Jan. 21? He’s so important to the way Brendan Rodgers want to run an attack, and he’s clearly not leaving the club this season.


Aston Villa team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: John McGinn (hamstring), Diego Carlos (achilles), Ludwig Augustinsson (illness), Jed Steer (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Lucas Digne (shoulder)

Leicester team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Ricardo Pereira (achilles), Boubakary Soumare (thigh), Ryan Bertrand (knee), James Justin (achilles), Jonny Evans (calf) | QUESTIONABLE: Jamie Vardy (buttock), Wilfred Ndidi (undisclosed)

Wolves vs Liverpool: How to watch, stream link, team news

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Liverpool hopes it can boost its top-four hopes by hurting Wolves’ plans for Premier League safety when the duo meet Saturday at the Molineux (watch live, 10am ET Saturday online via Peacock Premium).

It’s the third meeting since early January between the sides following a 2-2 draw in the FA Cup and a 1-0 Liverpool win in the replay.

STREAM LIVE WOLVES vs LIVERPOOL

Wolves sit 17th with 17 points, only outside of the bottom three due to Bournemouth’s poor goal differential. Last place is just two points away, as there are seven teams within three points between 14th and 20th.

Liverpool, meanwhile, is 10 points off the top four but has played at least one fewer match than all but two of the eight teams ahead of them (Sixth-place Brighton and leaders Arsenal).

Here’s everything you need to know ahead of Wolves vs Liverpool.

[ MORE: How to watch Premier League in USA ]


How to watch Wolves vs Liverpool live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET, Saturday
Online: Premier League on Peacock


Key storylines & star players

Winning games is about scoring goals and only two Wolves players have more than one. Daniel Podence has collected five, while Ruben Neves has four. Even more surprising, Wolves are still waiting on a goal from Raul Jimenez, Diego Costa, or injured Pedro Neto. Perhaps Matheus Cunha or Pablo Sarabia will chip in soon.

Liverpool has one win from its last three Premier League outings, but there’s a heaping helping of bad luck to their struggles. The Reds have 24 goals from open play and 20 allowed in that same situation. Their expected goals in those spots is 34.6 – 24. Mohamed Salah and Darwin Nunez have been especially unlucky despite combining for 12 goals and six assists on the season.


Wolves team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Pedro Neto (ankle), Sasa Kalajdzic (torn ACL), Boubacar Traore (undisclosed), Chiquinho (knee)

Liverpool team news, injuries, lineup options

OUT: Virgil van Dijk (thigh), Roberto Firmino (calf), Ibrahima Konate (hamstring), Luis Diaz (knee), Diogo Jota (thigh), Arthur Melo (thigh) | QUESTIONABLE: Fabio Carvalho (undisclosed), Nathaniel Phillips (illness)