About an hour or so after the U.S. men's national team's run through the 2022 World Cup ended, Tim Ream took the time to reflect.
While speaking with reporters, he expressed what the experience meant to him. He talked about his road to Qatar and how, for a while, he never thought his World Cup dream had come true.
Ultimately it did, with Ream a pivotal figure for the USMNT. If that was it for him, if that was the pinnacle of his career, he said he could live with that.
Now, nearly four months later, it appears that the 35-year-old's career is far from over. You could easily make the argument that Ream has never been better, with his spectacular World Cup form carrying over to Fulham's Premier League campaign.
So, here he was, with the USMNT for the first real games of the 2023 cycle. It appears Qatar wasn't the final chapter, after all.
"You just never know," Ream said. "Obviously, after the Netherlands game, you just don't know what is coming. I've maintained that I'm firmly just in that moment and, in that moment, you don't know what is or what could be."
"What could be" is a key part of that because, on current form, there's a pretty good chance that Ream could still be the USMNT's starting centerback for some time. There's a Gold Cup this summer, a Copa America next and then, hey, the World Cup will be here before you know it.
He was as composed as ever in his most recent USMNT appearance, the 1-0 win over El Salvador, as he partnered Miles Robinson with yet another rock-solid performance.
It's been a theme for Ream ever since the World Cup, as he stepped right back into the Fulham lineup in the Premier League. After yo-yoing between the Premier League and the Championship throughout the past few seasons, both Ream and Fulham are now firmly established, with the club sitting ninth in the Premier League.
Ream says he plans to remain at Craven Cottage for the foreseeable future. Despite his post-World Cup reflections, he believes he's far from finished.
"I have things I still want to accomplish over in England," he said. "I have no plans to come back [to MLS]. I'm going to continue to push myself and play at the highest level that I possibly can because that's kind of who I am and what I want to do.
"I want to keep keep testing myself. I want to keep pushing myself until I can't anymore. I've maintained that if at all possible, I'll retire playing over there. It's something that that I still have a hunger for."
In recent months, Ream has been heavily linked with St. Louis City SC, MLS' newest expansion club. Ream grew up in St. Louis and has now etched his own place in the city's illustrious soccer history, which is only just now being illuminated by the arrival of an MLS side.
Thus far, St. Louis City SC are unbeaten through their first five MLS games. The city is finally getting its due as a true soccer hotbed, with fans packing CITYPARK for a team that has, thus far, gotten off to a perfect start.
Ream, like everyone from St. Louis, has watched on with pride and, even if he has no plans to join the club any time soon, he hopes to see what has been built in his city in the near future.
"The games, just everything about it is impressive for an expansion team but not surprising, because I know what the city is like with the game and the passion."
"I'm hoping to stay involved in this [USMNT] group and, after we finish the season, we'll end up having camp pretty, pretty quickly, so I don't know when I'll get back, but I mean the atmosphere, I've seen it on the TV."
He added: "You never know. I have so many connections back there that I can't say, but I'm still firmly, firmly believing that I can play another three, four, five years and, after that, we'll see what happens. Who knows where I ended up? I could end up anywhere at that point!"
With the international break now over, Ream's focus will quickly return to Fulham. The club is set to visit Bournemouth this Saturday and, with only 11 matches left in the Premier League season, every point will count towards Fulham's playoff push.
Much is left to be decided but, after seeming so close to the end of his international career on that night in Qatar, it seems there is no end in sight for a player that has plenty of big games left in the tank.
"My career has been a lot of ups and downs and so I've learned to kind of just ride with it, to go with it," Ream said. "There's going to be disappointments along the way and, if you can come out on the other side of those disappointments a better player, a better person, then it's no problem.
"I'm not going to be too up, I'm not going to be too down. I try to stay pretty, pretty even no matter what happens and it's put me in a good position so far and gotten me to this point. I'm going to continue that."