Tim Ream: Klinsmann-Arena debate 'moot' regarding U.S. World Cup failure
United States international Tim Ream believes the ongoing debate over whether the national team was better off with Jurgen Klinsmann or Bruce Arena in its failed 2018 World Cup qualifying effort is a "moot point."
Speaking in an exclusive interview with ESPN FC, the Fulham defender admitted to massive disappointment in the team missing out on the World Cup after a 2-1 loss against Trinidad & Tobago on the final day of CONCACAF qualifying left the team on the outside looking in for Russia.
Klinsmann was fired in November of 2016 and replaced with Arena after the U.S. had lost its first two Hexagonal qualifying matches against Mexico and Costa Rica, respectively.
And the Americans got back on track in qualifying under Arena, but still needed a result in the last game against T&T on Oct. 10, 2017.
Ream said: "Listen, one's European, one's American, one's a hard, get down to hard work, but he's also laid back and that's Bruce. You know he's, he came in and immediately you could feel the difference in, in attitude that the players had.
"They were a little more relaxed, which you could say is a good thing, you could say is a bad thing, depending on the results, but there was definitely more of a team feel once Bruce came in.
"Listen, Jurgen's a great coach, he, for whatever reason, just wasn't getting the best out of everyone. You know, at the end of the day, I don't think you can say we would have qualified with Jurgen or we wouldn't have. It's a moot point because they made the change and everything still turned out the way it did."
Ream, 30, said that the failure to qualify was even harder to swallow because he'd been relegated to an unused substitute role for the loss at Ato Boldon Stadium in Couva.
However, he also said that one of the reasons he didn't play in the match was down to some shaky performances in qualifiers before the T&T finale.
"Yeah, absolutely, you think 'could I have helped out?'" Ream said. "But there's only 11 guys that get to start, and they make three substitutions, so 14 guys play, so a group of 23 guys, you know, [I] didn't have the best performance in the Costa Rica game, I guess the break before that, and that's the way life goes.
"You don't perform and there's somebody else ready to step up, and it was tough not being on the field and not being able to help out but, everybody has a role to play and unfortunately we fell short."
Ream was also an unused substitute in the first match following the catastrophic defeat to T&T and he watched on as a young and experimental U.S. team played to a 1-1 draw with Portugal.
Schalke striker Weston McKinnie scored on his U.S. senior team debut in the match and Ream came away from the match and the training sessions before it feeling bullish on the outlook for the up-and-coming players in the American game.
"Yeah, you know that group against Portugal was actually a lot different than the group that didn't qualify, which was, which was nice," Ream said. "There's a lot of, a lot of young kids, guys who were getting first caps, guys who were in their first camps, and guys that were in their second or third camp, but who still hadn't played a senior national team game.
"I think it was nice to see the progression and the lack of fear on the young players. You know they, they got after it from the very first training session and tried to put their stamp on things. And I think you, anybody watching the team in the last set of friendlies, they've seen that there is something to look forward to.
"The young players are a talented group, the ones over here in Europe, and even the ones that are in MLS, there's so much talent there. And there's no doubt that we'll be able to move forward and move past, it'll be tough watching this summer, without a doubt."
Before Ream does any watching of the World Cup action this summer, though, he has the bigger test of helping his Fulham team to victory against Aston Villa in the Championship playoff final on May 26 (Noon ET, ESPN+). The winner will earn promotion to the Premier League, while the loser will spend next season in England's second flight.
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