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Tim Ream making his case for a World Cup spot

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It's been 30 months since we last saw Tim Ream in a U.S. shirt, but it looks like he's a whole new player.

Michael Steele

The last time we saw Tim Ream was October 11, 2011. He had just gotten beat for an Ecuador goal, the only tally in a 1-0 United States loss, and nobody wanted him in a U.S. shirt ever again.

Back then, Ream was coming off a bad season for the New York Red Bulls and had little support to even make the U.S. team for a friendly, let alone a competitive match. He was too slow, not overly big, his supposed great passing led him to try and make overly ambitious plays and he wasn't getting any better, so why bother with him.

Two months later, Ream left MLS for Bolton Wanderers, where he failed to impress. The Trotters were relegated that season and Ream's fortunes didn't improve the following season as everything U.S. fans had grown to dislike about his play showed up for Bolton. He wasn't even on Jurgen Klinsmann's radar, and why would he be? He could barely cut it in the Championship.

But everything changed this season. Our resident Bolton fan Mark Yesilevskiy has a look at his year.

Tim Ream's season is a very interesting one. Prior to kick-off against Burnley on opening day, most Bolton fans had viewed Ream as a failure and defensive liability, citing a difficult season-and-a-half of watching the American play for the Trotters. Ream was so nearly a Bolton hero in their relegation season with his last-gasp attempt against Stoke City on the final day coming off the line instead of hitting the back of the net.

Like Ream's previous time at Bolton, the Trotters struggled throughout the 2013/14 campaign. The American was on the outside looking in for the first few matches but was ultimately given a shot in the side outside of his favored center back position in the 0-1 loss to Queens Park Rangers. Ream played as a defensive midfielder and, in that match, proved his worth for the Wanderers.

The American was Bolton's most consistent and arguably best-performing player for much of Bolton's season with his versatility shining bright. Ream played in midfield and in the center of defense for much of the season before playing as a left back in Marc Tierney's injury absence. The defender offers depth and ability with the ball at his feet, showing that he can calmly play out of defense.

To say that Ream has merely been good would be an understatement. He was been excellent and he's done it all over the pitch. If it was plain as day three years ago that he has no business on the U.S. team, it looks just as clear now that he at least deserves a look.

The U.S. has obvious issues at centerback, with Omar Gonzalez struggling, Geoff Cameron not playing there for his club, Clarence Goodson's lack of pace and John Brook's inexperience. It's not as if there's a clear cut, proven group Ream is being asked to crack.

Ream's versatility is also hugely valuable. Not only can he play centerback, but he can also slide into central midfield and left back too (although it would probably be less left back at the international level and more left centerback in a three-man backline). Of course, that Michael Parkhurst can play all along the backline, Matt Besler can slide to the left and Cameron can play in the midfield makes Ream's versatility less valuable, but it's still not a bad thing to offer.

Nobody is arguing that Ream has to go to Brazil. After all, his success came in the Championship and it's been 30 months since he played internationally, but this is a player who has drawn the praise of his manager, opposing managers and most viewers for a season now. That, at the very least, warrants a spot in training camp and a chance to prove he can hack it. If he can't, so be it, but Ream has shown he may be a legitimate option and, at this point, can the U.S. afford to rule out any legitimate options in the center of defense?