Tim Ream: “If you told me that I would be here with the national team and somewhat established, I might have laughed in your face.” (Winslow Townson/USA TODAY Sports)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

HARRISON, N.J. — Tim Ream returns to Red Bull Arena living a dream.

The former Red Bull center back admits he never envisioned where he is today, as a member of the U.S. national team in the midst of chasing a World Cup spot.

When asked if he foresaw this, the Fulham defender replied, “Simple answer, no.”

“There are always aspirations,” he said at RBA Thursday morning, a day prior to the qualifier against Costa Rica. “As every young kid will tell you, they would like to play on their high school, they want to play on their college team, they want to play professionally. I think that’s the goal. You always set higher goals and hope that you can reach those.

“Obviously, at the time in St. Louis, if you told me that I would be here with the national team and somewhat established, I might have laughed in your face, which I don’t do very often. I don’t think I could have envisioned what my career has been and has become. It’s something that has been a lot of hard hours, a lot of long hours, a lot of sacrifice in areas that people who aren’t involved or not around professional sports don’t understand. I would never have imagined this.”

The 29-year-old Ream may not be a starter, but he knows his place with the national side.

“I would like to say I would like to be starting games,” he said. “But we all know as a national team, you may be the star and start for your club team and come with the national team and kind of temper expectations, take on a different role. Right now, I am one of those next man up types. And for me, to be next man up and come in and show that you have the ability to help out the squad anyway that you can is something that I am very well aware of and something I’ve embraced.”

Ream broke in with the Red Bulls with a splash after he was selected 18th overall in the in 2010 MLS SuperDraft, and was named the club’s defender of the year. He wound up playing 58 games with the club before transferring to the Bolton Wanderers in 2012.

“We won’t discuss some of the not so great memories because they involve particular players and I won’t single anybody out because I’m not like that,” Ream said of his time with the Red Bulls. “I’ll always remember the first game opening up the arena against Santos, the first MLS game against Chicago, opening against Brian McBride because obviously we both went to the same college. … The playoffs, San Jose, was not a good one.”

That San Jose playoff elimination came in 2010.

That player Ream wouldn’t name was teammate and Mexican international Rafa Marquez, who called a Ream error he mad “infantile” in 2011.

Still, Ream learned from the Marquez incident.

“To a certain extent, it was constructive criticism done in the wrong avenue,” he said. “I was a bit naive and there was no doubt about that. It helped me to grow as a player and as a human being and knowing what avenues to take to speak to other guys on the team and what other avenues not to take. It also helped me grow as a player and cut out certain things that I was doing that was costing the team at the time.”

There is similar criticism in the English Premier League, but it is not done in the media, but behind closed doors.

“It’s different,” Ream said. “Over there, its kept in-house, in the locker room and its not aired all over the press and the papers and all that. It’s kept in the locker room and on the field. I think that’s something that’s necessary to be held accountable. I know the guys on this team, we do keep it in the locker room. It’s not personal and I understand that now, a lot better than I did when I was a 23-year-old kid. But its one of those you take it for what it is, you learn from it and you grow and you move on.”

But he will always have RBA, returning as an EPL player.

“Things have just gone from strength to strength for me,” Ream said. “A little bit of a down turn in form right when I went over after Bolton got relegated, but to now fight my way back. I don’t know if I would call myself fully established, but being a member of this squad trying to qualify for the World Cup and get us back in the position that we want to be in, it’s nice. I’ve put in some long, hard years and here I am, back when it all began.”