Ream hoping for another U.S. chance
PRAGUE -- The end of the U.S. national team's first training session since the World Cup was witness to a paradox of sorts on Monday. Tim Ream, the man who came in from the proverbial cold, seemed in no hurry to evade the chill brought on by an afternoon of light rain.
Granted, there never seems to be anything rushed about what Ream does on the soccer field. Composure and precision passing have long been the hallmarks of his game. But there was a trace of excitement in his voice as the prospect of making his first international appearance in almost three years continued to sink in.
"Once you've been introduced into the program, you always want to be there consistently," he told ESPN FC. "If you're not, you want to get back there at some stage. Obviously it's good to be back in and be with the national team. It's always an honor."
Without question, Ream traveled a circuitous path in returning to the U.S. side. In 2011, Ream was being tabbed along with Omar Gonzalez as a center back for the future. It was at that point that Ream opted to take the risk of moving to then-EPL side Bolton Wanderers, forgoing the certainty of a place in the starting lineup with the New York Red Bulls.
These days, the topic of whether U.S. players are better off playing overseas or staying in MLS remains relevant, especially given the flow of U.S. internationals back into MLS over the past year. Ream insists that the decision is highly personal but one he felt he had to make.
"It really depends on the person, whether you really want to stick your neck out there and try it and take your lumps along the way or develop at home in a comfortable situation," he said.
"I think for me it was a case where I had kind of run into being comfortable at New York. Not that it wasn't difficult, but I knew that for one reason or another I'd be playing week in and week out because there was nobody to step in and do the job. It was just a personal choice to make the move and see what it would be like."
Early on, it looked like the move backfired, as Bolton were relegated from the Premier League and Ream found playing time difficult to come by. As a consequence, his international call-ups evaporated, though Ream understood.
Yet it was a rare call-up by U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann that helped turn Ream's fortunes around. In October, the defender was called in for a friendly against Bosnia, but he didn't see the field in that match.
"Being here one year ago against Bosnia and not get that chance to play, it was kind of a motivator for me last year," Ream said. "I came back from that game and hadn't played much in the league and then played 46 straight."
That surge in form got Ream noticed, and Klinsmann later invited him to take part in the friendly against Ukraine in March. But Ream's wife Kristen had just given birth to the couple's son Aidan and the versatile defender was forced to decline. It was Ream's last chance to perhaps force his way into the World Cup squad, and he knew it.
When Ream tuned into the World Cup this summer, he admitted that the games were difficult to watch, not that he would have done anything differently.
"That was a personal decision I had to make," he said. "I was a little disappointed not to be called into the pre-[World Cup] camp, but it didn't come as a total shock that I wasn't invited."
A new cycle now awaits, and thanks to his experiences at club level, Ream finds himself a different player than he was four years ago. He's confident and well-ensconced at Bolton, earning the club's player of the year award last season. Now he feels he's ready to build on those performances, even though he's seen time at left back and center back this season.
"I think it makes you stronger as a person, stronger as a player," he said of his ups and downs. "Obviously with the first year in the Championship, struggling, and then last year the first couple of games not playing and then all of a sudden you're thrown right into the thick of it playing all the time.
"It's just one of those things where you've got to ride it. It's the proverbial roller coaster. You take the highs, you take the lows, and you learn your lessons from it."
Now U.S. fans will see if he can apply those lessons to the international game.
• Julian Green's loan deal to Bundesliga side Hamburg was made official on Monday, with the U.S. international joining Die Rothosen from Bayern Munich on a year loan. Green almost sounded relieved that the speculation over his immediate playing future had been settled.
"It's nice that everything is finished right now," he said. "I'm very happy to make this step. Hamburg is a big city, a big club. I'm very [much] looking forward to it."
While Green had stated earlier in the summer that he wished to stay and compete for playing time at Bayern, the realities of the club's deep and talented roster dictated otherwise.
"Hamburg is the perfect team for me, I think," Green said. "That's the reason I make this decision. It's a good opportunity for me to play. That's the most important thing for me, as I'm a young player."
• One surprise from Monday's session was the appearance of RB Leipzig forward Terrence Boyd. One of the final cuts from the World Cup roster, Boyd suffered a partial tear of his right ACL in late July and underwent surgery shortly thereafter.
"It wasn't even a bad move," Boyd said. "I was just changing direction and stretched my whole leg. That's how it happened. Then I shot after that, and after the game, I was thinking, 'Hmm, it feels a little bit weird. Maybe it will be gone tomorrow.' The next day it was swollen. I was lucky that I didn't totally rupture it. Then I'd be out for the season."
On Monday, Boyd could be seen putting in some endurance work as he aims to meet the 10-week time frame his club has set for his recovery.
"I'm right now at halftime of my injury, you could say," said Boyd. "I'm in my sixth week now. There's no pain when I'm running or riding a bike, so I'm just working on my fitness again, my knee stability, everything to strengthen it."
Boyd said he expects to return to full training in two to three weeks.
Jeff Carlisle covers MLS and the U.S. national team for ESPN FC. Follow him on Twitter @JeffreyCarlisle.