May 22, 2014, 9:40 AM EDT
Right back? Central defense? Holding midfield?
This dude Geoff Cameron is perhaps the most versatile players the U.S. national team has on their roster and is also the only outfield player to have played regular in the Premier League for the past two seasons.
He simply has to slot into the USA’s starting lineup somewhere… but where?
Cameron, 28, has developed into one of Jurgen Klinsmann’s most reliable options across the backline over the past three seasons. Yet when asked about Cameron’s best position at the USA’s training camp at Stanford University on Wednesday, Klinsmann told reporters that Cameron’s best position is as a central defender. Right off the bat, that causes quite a few issues.
Number one, throughout the last six to 12 months the preferred center back pairing of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler hasn’t done too much wrong in CONCACAF qualifying games. Number two, Cameron has played almost exclusively as a right back for Stoke who finished ninth in the PL this season and has also started there for the U.S. in that same time period. Number three, three center backs into two doesn’t go, so one of Cameron, Gonzalez or Besler will find themselves on the sidelines at the World Cup this summer.
Cameron’s play has been solid all season in the PL, with bigger clubs sniffing around him and the former Houston Dynamo standout even bagging two goals. Many forget that Cameron started off the World Cup qualifying campaign as the USMNT’s first choice center back pairing alongside Carlos Bocanegra with Clarence Goodson. Cameron was then switched to right back when Steven Cherundolo’s injuries curtailed his U.S. career and the Stoke defender has stayed at right back ever since for the U.S. with only a few appearances at center back and center mid since.
He is comfortable on the ball, great in the air and has dealt with the pace of Premier League attackers for the past two seasons. Cameron can also operate just as effectively as a holding midfielder but with Michael Bradley and Jermaine Jones the preferred options there, all of a sudden it seems as though Cameron is in a straight fight for two center back spots with Gonzalez and Besler. In terms of Klinsmann’s criteria (USMNT players testing themselves at the highest level week in, week out) that he set out way back when, Cameron has ticked all of those boxes.
Should he start at center back in the World Cup opener against Ghana on June 16? With several options at right back and holding midfield set, that would make the USA extremely strong. In my opinion Cameron should start alongside Besler, even though the Sporting Kansas City captain has forged a great partnership with Gonzalez in recent months. The latter struggled against Mexico in Arizona during the March friendly and question marks have to be raised over his ability to distribute the ball and deal with pacey attackers at the highest level.
After watching Cameron closely all season over in England for Stoke, Klinsmann simply has to find a way to get him in to the starting lineup at the World Cup this summer.
If he doesn’t the U.S. national team could suffer.
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