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Gold Cup: Ream, Goodson centerback pairing gelling for USA

TAMPA, Fla. – If you noticed the US national team’s center back pairing of Tim Ream and Clarence Goodson was especially solid last Tuesday night in a shutout of Canada, there may be a good explanation for it.

“We’ve played a few games together and in South Africa, my first camp in November [2010], we got along pretty well and communicated pretty well,” Ream told MLSsoccer.com this week. “Over the past couple of weeks we’ve developed that partnership a little bit more.

“I think we both just really enjoy playing next to each other. We’re both really comfortable and the communication has been great, which is key.”

In addition to the clean sheet against the Canucks in the USA’s Gold Cup Group C opener, Goodson and Ream started together once before – a 1-0 shutout at South Africa on Nov. 17, 2010 – a match which marked Ream’s debut for the USA. The two also featured side-by-side in the second half of the friendly against Spain last weekend and allowed just one goal to Fernando Torres in the 4-0 loss.

That’s one goal conceded in 202 minutes when both players are on the field at the same time. Whatever the intangibles at play, the combination seems to be clicking.

“It’s two guys that have a good mind for the game,” the 29-year-old Goodson told MLSsoccer.com. “Both try to do our best to organize the team, so there’s a lot of talking out there. That helps out to solve a lot of problems.”

The partnership is fostered by solid off-field chemistry between the two, including the odd dinner here and there.

“All those little things help,” Goodson said. “He’s a good guy. The conversation comes easy. One of those people where you pick up where you left of last time you saw him.”

It also helps that both players are going through positive spells in their respective club careers. After a World Cup and a second consecutive Gold Cup appearance, Goodson is also at the top of his game on the club level with Brondby, one of the top outfits in Sweden. 

Meanwhile, Ream is shining as a regular starter for the Red Bulls. He called the match against Canada his best performance in a US jersey.

Goodson praised Ream’s ability to fit right into the national team and show a knack for never getting “overwhelmed by the moment.”

Although they haven’t had any formal sit-downs with the USMNT manager, the Red Bulls’ second-year player indicated that Bob Bradley has given a positive review of their overall performance against Canada and specifically the center backs’ ability to keep and build possession.

“In general our back four last game [vs. Canada] had a really good understanding,” US captain Carlos Bocanegra said. “I thought our line was really good. I thought we dropped the right moments and we stepped at the right moments. So we’re really comfortable with that ... Our team shape was good and normally that starts out of the back.”

The debate about whether Ream-Goodson is the best center back pairing for the USA will obviously be revisited after Saturday night’s match against Panama at Raymond James Stadium (8 pm ET, FOX Soccer).

However, until otherwise proven, the results are speaking for themselves.

“There are a lot of things that go into it,” Ream said. “The communication on and off the field. Just chit chatting, just enjoying each other and talking about things not really related to soccer and related to soccer. It’s been a good partnership so far and hopefully we can continue to build that.”