DOHA, Qatar — Tim Ream said he had “made peace” with the fact that he probably wouldn’t be going to Qatar but his stellar form for Fulham helped him secure a spot on the U.S. roster, and now he is on the verge of achieving his World Cup dream.
Ream, 35, hasn’t played for the U.S. since the opening game of World Cup qualifying back in September of 2021, a 0-0 draw in which he played well. Since then he had seen a slew of center backs preferred ahead of him, and a World Cup seemed unlikely and Ream accepted that.
“I didn’t need to go to a World Cup to validate anything that I’ve done in my 12 years as a professional,” Ream told ESPN in an exclusive interview. “It wasn’t going to make or break me personally. I had made peace with [possibly not going], and accepted it.”
But injuries to Atlanta United‘s Miles Robinson, as well as Crystal Palace‘s Chris Richards created an opportunity, and a phone call from U.S. manager Gregg Berhalter two weeks ago hinted that a recall was possible.
“Along the way that, you need a little bit of help,” Ream said. “Unfortunately guys pick up injuries here and there, and, maybe that gives me the opportunity. But when that door opens, and you have to be playing well.”
Ream was only too happy to walk through it. Now he is in the mix to get on the field for the Americans’ World Cup opener on Nov. 21.
“We dream of it as kids, even now, they dream of playing being in a World Cup,” he said. “They dream of representing their country. And to me that’s the best part, that I get to represent my family, my country, 300 million people, and play a game doing it.”
There have been questions as to whether Ream can excel in Berhalter’s system where the defense plays a high line. But Ream has been thriving in a similar system with Fulham all season, and thinks he fits in well with that approach.
“I’m comfortable in it,” he said about his manager’s approach. “I know what my role is, and what I need to do, and where I need to be. The rotations are a little bit different, and guys are in a little bit different positions tactically. But in terms of holding a line, or squeezing a line, it’s no problem because it’s the exact same thing we do at Fulham.”
The U.S. had a training session Thursday night with Qatari club side Al-Gharafa, whose stadium is serving as a training base for the Americans. Ream said the session went well.
“It was just kind of ironing out the kinks, getting connections, making sure everyone, understands their roles, understands their jobs with and without the ball,” he said. “It was a good exercise, and also to get guys minutes under the belt in the heat. It was eight o’clock, but it was still, still pretty warm out. It went really well.”
The session gives Ream confidence that the team is ready for Wales. The U.S. visited two of the World Cup stadiums on Thursday, adding to the sense of anticipation.
“It made it really real, really exciting,” he said of the visit. “Guys are really in a good place mentally, physically, and ready to go for Monday.”