Forwards in MLS are starting to get used to getting “reamed.” Not in a bad way. Not in a “Call 911” way. In a frustrating, irritating, I-can’t-believe-he’s-a-rookie way.
Tim Ream, the rookie central defender for the New York Red Bulls, has taken the league by storm. He is part of a backline that has conceded just .67 goals per game through the season’s first six games. Most impressive, however, has been Ream’s poise: There have been few center backs in MLS over the past decade as comfortable distributing the ball as Ream is.
That last statement is made more impressive by the fact that last year he was playing college soccer. The second-round pick in the MLS Draft has shown signs of being the most promising center back to enter the league since Michael Parkhurst in 2005, but Ream’s ability to distribute the ball is reminiscent of greats who have played in MLS like Luboš Kubík and Eddie Pope.
Head coach Hans Backe has been more than impressed by what he has seen from his rookie find.
“More than expected,” said Backe when asked if Ream had progressed as he imagined. “He must be the rookie of the year candidate.”
Or more. Some New York fans are already penciling him into the starting lineup for the United States in the 2014 World Cup. Ream is fast to downplay such talk.
“I’m happy to be just starting and playing 90 minutes,” he told MLSsoccer.com. He credits a strong start to the preseason with his seamless transition to the pros.
The team’s success directly correlates with Ream’s emergence. A revitalized defense that has been stingy in front of goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul has been instrumental in the club’s 5-1 start and ascent to first place in the Eastern Conference. And Ream knows full well that the team’s current win total is equal to New York’s victory tally from all of last season.
“They talked about [last year] giving up soft goals,” Ream said. “I heard that last year, the team gave up two goals in the final three or four minutes to D.C. We’re trying to close out every game we’re in.”
Backe credits New York’s sporting director Erik Soler with finding Ream at the pre-draft combine, but it has been Backe who has let Ream succeed. Ream also credits Mike Petke for showing him the little things and taking him aside to provide leadership and insight.
But despite the fans thinking this New York team should make the playoffs, Ream is keen on keeping things in perspective.
“It is six games,” Ream said. “Six games doesn’t do anything yet.”
Kristian Dyer is a reporter for MLSSoccer.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.