Fulham defeated Derby County, 2-0, in the second leg of the EFL Championship play-off semifinals, securing a 2-1 aggregate victory and bringing the club one step closer to a return to the Premier League.
Ryan Sessegnon scored in the 47th minute and Denis Odoi’s well-placed header in the 66th minute sealed a spot in the final.
The Cottagers face Aston Villa – who defeated Middlesbrough – on May 26th at Wembley.
“The team played fantastic football, controlled everything, and created many chances,” Fulham manager Slaviša Jokanović said after the match. “They were really focused, were organized to stop their defensive transitions and not give them many opportunities to make defensive situations in front of goal.”
Fulham features American defender Tim Ream, who has played very well this season. The 30-year old center back/fullback/defensive midfielder made 44 league appearances and started both legs against Derby.
Ream began his career in MLS with the New York Red Bulls after four seasons with St. Louis University. He then moved to then-Premier League participants Bolton Wanderers in 2012 before joining Fulham in 2015.
Prior to the beginning of the play-offs and after missing out on automatic promotion, Ream told The Independent that the club controls its own destiny.
“Going back to last year we’ve had three chances now to be promoted in two seasons,” he said in a conversation with Matt Murphy. “It’s pretty incredible to have that opportunity, so myself and the team and everybody associated with the club, we’ve got to grab it with two hands and take it. What we do is up to us. It’s not up to anybody else, we don’t rely on anybody else now.”
Despite earning 26 caps with the U.S. men’s national team, Ream was never able to nail down a permanent spot on the back line, missing out on the 2014 World Cup roster. Unfortunately, he’s reached his prime in the best year for it, but he won’t have the opportunity to show off his ability on the biggest stage (yet another disappointment tributary emanating from the river of failure that is the loss in Trinidad).
As a consolation, Ream will have to settle for the glory of leading his club back to the Premier League after a four-year absence – if they can get the job done against Villa.