If you haven't heard the rumors yet, Tim Ream is the Yank that Owen Coyle has lined up as a replacement center back. The deal is supposedly close to done with both sides going through the work visa appeals process where they will have to prove that Ream is an exceptional, young talent, as he likely does not meet the other criteria.
We understand that most Bolton Wanderers fans don't watch Major League Soccer and will likely never have seen Tim Ream actually play. Much like was the case with Stuart Holden, Ream is a relative unknown to those across the pond but they'll hope that he can make a splash and soon. We chatted with Matt Conroy who is a die-hard (yeah, Bruce Willis style) Red Bull New York fan that knows quite a bit about Tim Ream and what Bolton fans might want to expect. If you have more questions for Matt, find him on Twitter on @TheVipersNest or check out his Red Bull New York blog, The Vipers Nest.What sets Ream apart from other defenders in Major League Soccer?
His passing ability. Of the current group of US National Team defenders, he is almost certainly the most comfortable with the ball at his feet. It's rare that he just kicks a ball away aimlessly, although you could argue that's gotten him into trouble on occasion. I'm thinking specifically of last year's game in Philadelphia, when he was caught in possession and lost the ball to Danny Mwanga, leading to a game winning goal for Philly. But at his best, Ream does an excellent job of playing the ball out of the back and identifying options in front of him. He also made a couple of spectacular last ditch tackles last year - against D.C. United and Los Angeles Galaxy - that saved certain goals. His commitment and tackling ability cannot be questioned.
Do you think he'll be able to transition to the Premier League like Holden did?
It's asking a lot of Ream to expect him to have the same kind of impact Holden had right out of the gate. Holden had a bit more experience at the international level and had more games under his belt by the time he made the move to England. Over the long term, Ream could prove to be a very effective defender for Bolton, but I'm worried that too much might be expected of him too soon. Stepping into Gary Cahill's boots and helping pull the club out of the relegation fight won't be easy.
Ream got a lot of attention in his rookie season that got him national team call-ups. What happened in his sophomore season that made it look like a step backwards? Is the blame to fall on him, the supporting cast at RBNY, or both?
Ream seemed to lose confidence in his second season. I'm not sure if it was the incident in Philadelphia, his struggles at the Gold Cup, the lack of a consistent defensive partner and/or goalkeeper, or all of the above. There were times when Ream showed his 2011 form - the D.C. and L.A. games stand out, as does his performance in the Emirates Cup - but two or three big mistakes he made were magnified and replayed over and over again. That might have gone to his head a little. Let's be honest, though. Rafa Marquez, Ream's central defensive partner for much of the year, had a nightmare season of his own. Once Stephen Keel was slotted in alongside Ream toward the end of the campaign, the team seemed to right the ship defensively. The Red Bulls also burned through goalkeepers at an alarming rate. Anytime you have that kind of upheaval at the back, it can't be good for a defender's state of mind.
Stuart Holden has been known to play pranks and dress in costumes to help lift the spirits around the club. Will Tim Ream wear pink leotards and donkey suits if it's asked of him?
Ha! I doubt it. Ream's a very soft spoken guy and from what I can tell not much of a prankster. That cool demeanor could be a positive for him. After one particularly disastrous game last season against Real Salt Lake, Ream came in for a lot of criticism from Marquez. To his credit, he stayed cool under pressure and responded maturely. Don't expect a lot of hijinks from Ream. He's very much an unassuming Midwestern kid.
What does Tim Ream need around him in terms of a supporting cast to do well at Bolton?
I think he'd benefit from being paired with a more physical central defensive partner. Ream needs to work on being more assertive - especially on set pieces. If Coyle doesn't have him hitting the weights from day one I'd be surprised. The biggest thing he'd benefit from is a bit of patience - something I suspect is in short supply at Bolton.
Do you expect that the deal will go through once the appeals process with his work permit is done?
Yes, if he gets a work permit I can't see there being any barriers to the transfer. The Red Bulls seem to have moved on from Ream already. Just last week, they traded for the rights to Wilman Conde, the former Chicago defender, who is likely to take Ream's place in the New York starting XI.
If the deal is done, will the NY defense miss him? Will he be a positive signing for Bolton?
I think the Red Bulls will miss his composure at the back, but with the money they'll be getting from the transfer I think they'll be able to find an adequate replacement and meet other needs. Over the long term, I expect Ream to be a positive signing for Bolton. I just wonder how long the period of adjustment will be. If he makes a mistake early will Bolton supporters pile on or remain patient? It's a big step up for him. In terms of skills and intelligence he has what it takes to be a success in England, but he is by no means the finished article.