With the New York Red Bulls continuing to shake up their roster, the club's former star Tim Ream hopes that Sporting Director Andy Roxsburgh will stick to his word on building around American talent next season.
Despite sputtering early in the MLS playoffs, Ream believes that some of the Red Bulls' brightest performances came from the team's U.S.-born core that featured Kenny Cooper, Dax McCarty, Connor Lade, Ryan Meara and Brandon Barklage.
"I like the way that the new technical director is saying that he wants more American talent," Ream told Goal.com. "Those five guys, they are all young, they are all American and they all stepped up in big moments. That's something that the fans in New York could relate to. I think that will definitely help the team."
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The Red Bulls are expected to retain Lade, McCarty, Meara and Barklage. Cooper might be traded to ease salary cap pressures. Still, the fact that team acquired a second-round pick in its trade for Kosuke Kimura proves that it will continue to scour the college system looking for potential rotation players.
Ream, who now plays for English Championship side Bolton, still follows the Red Bulls closely since leaving the club in January. Though Ream is grateful for the opportunity that he received from the team's recently-departed coach Hans Backe, he admits the club might have needed a change in order to reach its objectives.
"You always want to see a coach who brought you in given one more year, but at a certain point you have to make changes to try to get something more. I think that was the case," Ream explained.
The Red Bulls continue to search for their next head coach, with many fans hoping to see an American hired for the position. According to Ream, the team's priority should be focused on getting talent that fits together rather coaches nationalities. He believes many of the club's struggles over the past few years have come from the talent not being able to gel.
"If you can put a good mix of players out there then you can get the job done," he said. "As long as the product is good on the field, the coach could be from anywhere."
Though some have claimed that a poor locker room chemistry led to the Red Bulls' disappointments in the playoffs, Ream denies reports that the players don't like each other. Yes, that includes his relationship with Rafa Marquez that was called into question after the Mexico captain open criticized the young center back for his performances on the field.
"To be honest, everyone in that locker room, we really did get along," Ream insisted. "As much as people want to believe there was issues between not just him and I or him with the other guys, there really weren't."
Ream attributed Marquez's comments to frustration about the team's results.
"There's a lot of competitive drive, it's competitive nature. You just want to win. There's nothing wrong with that. A lot of frustration is what that boiled down to. Other than that everything was fine," Ream said.
The Red Bulls might in the midst of making significant roster moves, but Ream hopes that Thierry Henry remains the team's captain when the club brings in a new coach.
Henry has yet to win a trophy as captain of any team during his stints with the armband with Arsenal, France and the Red Bulls. Many have criticized Henry's demeanor on the field, as his frustrations are often visible. Still, Ream believes that Henry's hunger and passion is more inspiring than anything else.
"He's out there [in practice] just as long as the next guy, helping out the young players," Ream explained. "I don't think [being captain] is too much for him. I think its just in his nature to want to win. I think he comes across as frustrated [at his teammates] but in fact he's just frustrated at not winning the game."
He added, "When you see him wanting to win a game so bad, you realize that with the teams he's been on, all of things that he's won, that should be enough motivation to work just as hard as him."
Stay tuned for Tim Ream's second exclusive with Goal.com on Wednesday. He talks about his life with Bolton and his future with the United States national team.