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USMNT must set tempo vs. Bolivia - Tim Ream

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Published in Soccer
Saturday, 22 June 2024 15:12

DALLAS -- United States men's national team defender Tim Ream said his team must set the tempo early in Sunday's Copa América opener against Bolívia.

"We have to come out with an intensity, with a desire to impose ourselves on the game and make sure that we're the ones that are doing the right things and creating the feel and the intensity of the games," Ream told reporters Thursday at the Cotton Bowl. "It's going to be important for us to do that from the first minute. Obviously, we don't want to have anything happen like [against] Jamaica, where you're scrambling for the rest of the game."

That Jamaica game was the Concacaf Nations League semifinal in March. The USMNT conceded in the first minute and equalized in second-half stoppage time before scoring twice in extra time to advance to the final, which the Americans won.

Sunday marks the beginning of the USMNT's Copa América campaign on home soil, the team's biggest test ahead of a co-hosted 2026 World Cup. The USMNT is the favorite against a Bolivia team ranked 84th in the world, the worst among all South American teams.

Bolivia, however, is under new management as of last year with the appointment of coach Antônio Carlos Zago, a former Copa América winner with Brazil as a player in 1999. The USMNT expects a more aggressive Bolivia team at Copa América based on changes Zago has made.

"They have a few talented players on the ball that if they get the space to turn in the pockets and come at us, it could be trouble," USMNT goalkeeper Matt Turner told reporters Friday. "They like to shoot from distance, put balls into the box, and not for nothing, but their region is difficult. They're going up against really, really good teams all the time.

"So, for us, it's going to be a challenging game. It's a game for us to understand what this tournament is really all about and how much it means to all these South American countries as well. So I think we got a taste of that in the friendlies, but now that the lights are really on, it's important for us to put our foot down and put out a good performance."

Ream also expects a higher-pressing Bolivia team but says the USMNT will be ready if it encounters a more conservative opponent sitting in a lower block.

"They've changed their style a little bit in terms of the way they press, and we're prepared for that," Ream said. "We're prepared for them to, more than anything, press higher up the pitch, because that has been the change that they've made. But again, you don't know until you get into the game and read what is happening."

Bolivia enters Copa América on a run of three straight losses in preparation matches against Colombia, Ecuador and Mexico. The U.S., meanwhile, bounced back from a 5-1 loss to Colombia this month by drawing with Brazil 1-1 on June 12.

The USMNT and Bolivia last played in 2018, when the Americans won 3-0. An 18-year-old Josh Sargent scored in his USMNT debut that day, and fellow 18-year-old Tim Weah also scored his first goal in his second appearance. Both players are part of the USMNT's Copa América roster.

Ream is the oldest player ever named to a USMNT Copa América roster at 36. This will be Ream's first Copa América alongside a young squad that largely has not experienced the tournament. Only Christian Pulisic and goalkeeper Ethan Horvath were on the roster for the USMNT's Copa América Centenario squad in 2016.

Playing South American opponents in a competitive setting -- including Uruguay in the group stage -- is an experience the USMNT doesn't often get.

"It's a great opportunity for us," Ream said. "It's a great opportunity to test ourselves, to play against the best in South America, and a good chance for us to see how far we've come in the past three to four years."

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