Jun 30, 2014, 3:33 PM EST
An early shank against Portugal is the only mistake Geoff Cameron has made in a U.S. shirt so far in the 2014 World Cup.
However, the Premier League defender lost his starting spot to Omar Gonzalez for the final group game against Germany, and it will be a huge decision to see which player Jurgen Klinsmann goes with on Tuesday against Belgium.
Along with the decision to bring back in Jozy Altidore, who will play at center back is the other hot topic of discussion around the U.S. starting lineup.
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Many U.S. fans made Cameron a scapegoat for the USA’s 2-2 draw vs. Portugal after the shank and then the second goal they conceded in the dying stages, but I’m not buying that. It was a catalogue of errors. Fabian Johnson obviously didn’t give Cameron a call that Silvestre Varela was coming over from the right side, Cristiano Ronaldo was given far too much time to tee up a cross and the ball was lost cheaply in midfield to start with. The first goal, Cameron will admit, came from his mistake. Portugal’s second goal, that wasn’t down to him. You can’t help but think that after scrolling through Twitter in the moments after the game that Cameron, and Michael Bradley to a certain extent, were made the scapegoats. Both players are two of the finest and most experienced the U.S. has.
Regardless, now it is either Gonzalez or Cameron to start for the U.S. in central defense alongside Matt Besler. Gonzalez and Besler formed a formidable partnership in the USA’s qualifying campaign, while Cameron played at right back. Both candidates would do a good job and wouldn’t let the U.S. down against one of Europe’s best teams, but here is the case for Cameron.
“It was a good opportunity for us to give Cammy [Cameron] a breather,” Klinsmann said when asked about why Omar Gonzalez was brought into the starting lineup vs. Germany.
However you dissect Gonzalez’s performance against Germany, he didn’t do much wrong. One shaky clearance that resembled a shank early on was rectified by a string of fine defensive headers and a great last-ditch tackle on Mesut Ozil in the first half. Gonzalez’s solid display, coupled with Cameron’s benching, has now seen the Stoke City defender fall out of the picture for the USA’s round of 16 clash against Belgium.
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The main reasons why Cameron should get the nod ahead of Gonzalez at the heart of the USA’s defense are the following:
- He is quicker…
Cameron is not the fastest player in the world but as a center back he possess great pace. Playing right back for Stoke all season, he has bombed on and supported the attack and tracked back pacey wingers with ease. He certainly has the edge over Gonzalez when it comes to being able to match the pace of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, which will be crucial on Tuesday.
- He has played in the Premier League for the past two seasons…
Okay, so we know playing in the PL is no longer the sole requirement for being a starter in Klinsmann’s team (we can see that from the large MLS contingent) but Cameron’s displays against the world’s best week in, week out, prove that he can do it when it matters. He has marked Eden Hazard, come up against Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini and not looked out of place. His experience against Belgium’s best players counts for a lot.
- Fitness-wise, he is in top condition…
This is one of the major question marks surrounding Gonzalez, as the LA Galaxy defender was struggling with a knee injury throughout camp and the warm-up games. Gonzalez came through an entire 90 minute unscathed against Germany, but can a player who has had limited game-time over the past six-weeks really play two full games back-to-back in the space of five days? Cameron is in top shape and is not a risk when it comes to this aspect.
- Remember that display vs. Ghana, yeah…
With Matt Besler having to go off injured at half time against Ghana, the U.S. looked to be in a bad spot as rookie defender John Brooks came on in his place. Cameron defended superbly throughout, making two vital blocks in the second half and his superb display knitted the entire defense together as Ghana piled on the pressure. Brooks got the heroics for his late header, but along with Jermaine Jones in midfield, Cameron was the main reason the U.S. bagged a win that proved crucial in their qualification from the dreaded “Group of Death.”
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