MLS Spotlight: Cameron keeps improving as one of the best in MLS

Geoff Cameron (Getty Images)

By FRANCO PANIZO

Geoff Cameron has kept very busy over the course of the past six months. 

From playing playing in friendlies with the U.S. men's national team to continuing his transition to centerback with the Houston Dynamo, Cameron has not had too many dull moments since falling at the hands of the Los Angeles Galaxy in last season's MLS Cup final.

While the 26-year-old has had a lot on his plate this year, one of the main things he has focused on is his continued development as a centerback for the Houston Dynamo. Ever since Houston head coach Dominic Kinnear said at the end of last season that Cameron's switch to central defense would be permanent, the converted defender has made a concentrated effort to understand all the nuances of the position.

"There's still a lot to learn, with reading the game and I need communicate more, be louder on the field and just direct my players around more than I am right now," said Cameron. "It's one thing I'm trying to get better at day in and day out in practice and in games."

Cameron has adjusted well enough at the position that he earned himself a call-up from U.S. men's national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann this past January for a near month-long camp that concluded with a pair of friendlies at home versus Venezuela and on the road against Panama.

In both those games, Cameron started at centerback on a team comprised of fringe players. He fared well in the United States' 1-0 victory over Venezuela, but his performance in the win against Panama drew mixed reviews due to him earning a controversial red card early in the second half.

"I thought I did pretty well," said Cameron. "Obviously disappointed with the red card, which was not the greatest call, but I had a great time, I learned a lot. I learned the way Jurgen wants to play, felt pretty comfortable with the coaching staff and the group of guys that I was playing with. The tempo and all that kind of stuff, it was a good learning experience and a good opportunity for me to get my feet wet."

Klinsmann and the U.S. coaching staff stressed to Cameron the need for him to be more vocal and demanding at the back, but he impressed them enough to receive another call-up to the Americans' full team's friendly against Italy a month later. Cameron did not play in that historic 1-0 win for the United States, but he experienced firsthand how well the oft-spoken camaraderie within the team actually is.

"All the guys were really, really nice," said Cameron, who pointed out he was particularly impressed by Clint Dempsey, Michael Bradley and Carlos Bocanegra. "There weren't really any pricks or anything like that. You hear stories here and there, but your first time you go in there with these group of players that are playing all over the world, they're good payers. Everybody was really, really, super nice.

"They welcomed me and it didn't feel awkward, where it felt before in the past. My first camp [in 2010 under then-head coach Bob Bradley] there were more cliques here and there, and those cliques would stay together."

Sticking together is what Cameron and the Dynamo have done this offseason after suffering a deflating 1-0 loss to Los Angeles in the MLS Cup final last season. So close to MLS history, Cameron and the Dynamo stood and watched as the Galaxy raised the MLS Cup trophy under a rain of confetti.

Cameron has moved on from the disappointment of finishing second, but not before rewatching the stinging defeat a few times.

"It was tough looking back, I watched the game a couple times, just wishing I didn't get into that tackle in the 35th minute," said Cameron, who fought through a knee injury sustained in the first half of that fateful game. "It's like could I have helped the team a bit more if I didn't get injured, or could I have saved that goal? If my knee was better maybe I could have read it better, maybe gotten a quicker jump on it. I don't think we played our best. I think if we did it would have been a different result. That's just one thing you have to live with. It's part of it, it's part of soccer."

The next phase of Cameron's career will see him and the 2-3-2 Dynamo end their seven-game road trip to start the season, as they unveil their brand-new, soccer-specific stadium, BBVA Compass Stadium, in downtown Houston this coming Saturday against D.C. United.

Like many within the organization and around the league, Cameron is excited about the the state-of-the-art facility. He is happy to be able to call such a stadium his home, and he fully expects to be in awe when walks down the tunnel and onto the field for the first time in front of the Dynamo faithful.

"I'm pretty sure I'm going to get the chills walking down the tunnel and walking out to a sold-out stadium," said Cameron. "When's the last time we've had a sold-out stadium in regular season? Just to call this place home is pretty cool, and obviously with the seven-game road trip you want to sleep in your own bed the night before and cook your own meals and just go through your home routine that you usually go through."

Playing in front of their home crowd should give the Dynamo a boost. While they have not been terrible on the road in 2012, Houston knows it could have earned more points in the first seven games of the year.

The Dynamo have struggled on both sides of the ball in different matches, but Cameron is keen to correct the mistakes that have cost Houston games like Wednesday's night 1-0 loss to the New York Red Bulls.

"This year we've given up goals that are not good goals," said Cameron. "Unfortunate, bad bounces, or we have a good line and then the ball flicks off of someone and it goes in the net. We're giving up crappy goals and we're not making teams earn it against us, and I think that's one thing we're trying to focus on."

That mentality and willingness to improve no matter how difficult the circumstances, combined with his skill and versatility, is part of the reason why some circles around the league consider Cameron to be one of MLS's best talents.

"I rate him as one of the best players in the league," said New York Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe. "He can play central midfield, started as a striker, now playing centerback. He has all of it I would say: skill, physically strong, good on set plays. He's a very, very good player."

Cameron may be improving and growing more familiar with centerback, but he is not the only one learning. Cameron has acknowledged that unlike last year, when he was still a relatively unknown commodity in central defense, opposing teams are pressuring him almost as soon as he gets the ball in an effort to prevent him from making his patented marauding runs forward.

"It's tough because I have to pick and choose," said Cameron. "When there's something to pick up on and they're denying you that space, then you've got to use your other game and that's picking out passes and keeping possession."

As Cameron continues to learn the position, he will likely improve his chances of getting called back into the U.S. men's national team. Cameron admits that although his main focus is with the Dynamo, part of him wants to participate in World Cup qualifying this summer.

If Klinsmann feels progress has been made and deems the Dynamo veteran ready, that could happen. Then Cameron would be in store for even more hectic months than the ones he just completed.

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32 Responses to MLS Spotlight: Cameron keeps improving as one of the best in MLS

  1. Andy says:

    Especially with Parkhurst and Goodson not able to play, I definitely see Geoff Cameron getting his chance. Gonzo still out and George John maybe still one of the MLS options. Speed on the ground, good passing, and good touch will all be helpful in the international game.(We’ll see if the iron’s still hot on him for Klinsy)

  2. Devin Brown says:

    I’d prefer it if no Dynamo players got called up to the national team–at least not during the MLS season.

  3. David says:

    It’s a shame that he had 4 years of possible pro experience destroyed by college. 26 isn’t a “oh wow look at him growing up!” age in soccer (or most sports) it should be a “he has firmly entered his prime” age.
    Hopefully one day college soccer goes away.

  4. jonk says:

    I like his game, but the few times I’ve seen him play he tries to do too much. I didn’t catch the whole game but I saw him dribble (one of his patented marauding runs) into traffic and lose the ball in midfield twice last night, as if he thought he was so good he wouldn’t lose it.

    Anyway, I’m a fan and I hope he continues to refine his game and succeeds at the int’l level.

  5. NE Matt says:

    “There weren’t really any pricks or anything like that. You hear stories here and there, but your first time you go in there with these group of players that are playing all over the world, they’re good payers. Everybody was really, really, super nice.”

    Did Franco really miss editing that out? I haven’t seen many, if any curse words (regardless of severity) on this website before.

    Also, I’m not offended at all, just pointing it out as pretty funny for those who didn’t read the whole article.

  6. Chop says:

    You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger Geoff Cameron fan than myself, having continually pimped him for a call-up for nearly two years now.

    That being said, I am seeing a poor run of form from him recently. He was terrible in the United match in DC and before that was awful in their 2-2 draw at Red Bulls.

    i’m hoping he turns it around because we don’t have many, if any center backs with his skill level. He does need to improve in the air as that is the #1 requirement for central defenders in International play.

  7. downintexas says:

    Maybe one day you will go away! College soccer will always have its place.

  8. 99 says:

    i had the same thoughts.

  9. jlm says:

    or maybe Americans will develop a reputation for being “late bloomers,” players that do not reach their peak at 23-27, but at 26-30. look at Dempsey. Donovan is another example. Holden could be another example if not for injuries. Ream could be another example. Cameron falls in line here as well. The European way is not the only way.

    College soccer going away would be a huge problem for the long term development of soccer in this country.

  10. Andy says:

    Exactly. I like the thought of our players hitting their prime at the 26-30 range because it could equal better international success if our players are playing their best when they are a more mature 28 than a younger 23. I don’t know maybe it doesn’t even matter.

  11. JG13 says:

    Maybe I’m looking into it too much but his word choice is kind of curious here. To me “there weren’t really any pricks” hints that there are at least one or two guys that he’s not exactly best friends with and/or there were some definite pricks the last time that he was in camp.

  12. Byron says:

    Chop I am seeing the same thing. He has the talent, just making too many mistakes this year.

  13. PanchoMiguelMoralesdeConejo says:

    “Prick” is not a curse word…you Cactus.

  14. Air Jordanz says:

    I’m a big Cameron fan, but there were a few cringe-inducing moments last night.

    I remeber at least one of those “patented marauding runs” where, in a very un-Cameron-like fashion, he gave the ball away without even attempting to make a move.

    Another was a poor, lofted pass across the back that Boswell had to scramble to clear.

    That said, Cameron was pretty great the rest of the night, including on the play where Cooper scored. If Ashe hadn’t gotten in the way there, Hall would have scooped up the ball. Cameron closed down and stripped Cooper of the ball the remainder of the night.

    I think he can be USMNT caliber with some work and a full season at CB. Look at Boca and Dolo going strong into their 30s!

  15. Rlw2020 says:

    Now we know what Brian Ching thinks of the current national teamers.. Those had to be his words, who else would have told cameron that?

  16. 2tone says:

    I like Cameron’s game a lot. out of all of the younger CB’s I rate him the highest. the only part of his game that he needs to curb is his run’s forward which more often than not result in him loosing the ball. Over all I think he will be the more likely successor to Boca’s LCB position. My 4 CB’s for WC 2014. Gooch, Boca, Cameron, and Seb Hines when he makes the switch.

  17. b says:

    Donovan? How old was he on the 2002 World Cup team?

    Late bloomers like Dempsey, Gomez, Wondolowski…

    But on the other hand there are guys like Bradley and Altidore who seem ancient because they have been around for so long, yet they are still quite young.

  18. Roger says:

    Aside from being a good player he is a great guy. Once the STH event had ended he made sure to keep walking around the stadium and give his autograph to about 100-150 fans still waiting. (the whole time with a smile and funny remarks) glad I waited in the heat to get my Geoff Cameron jersey signed. Mentioned to him that my brothers and I call him the bow tie killer (problem child) he had a good laugh and mention that he’ll rock the bow tie this season lol

  19. Lost in Space says:

    I like Cameron and believe that he has the skill set (speed & touch) that could make him an excelent Center Back. This being the first year for him to be fully dedicated as a Central Defender, I expect there to be a learning curve, as Central Defense is one of the most unforgiving positions on the field. Any mistakes made by a CB more often than not lead to a chance at goal for the opposition. If/When he learns to be more commanding in the air, and develops the ability to read the game from the deeper position, I think he’ll be a real option for the USMNT. I just wish that his positional switch would have been made 2 years ago…

  20. b says:

    You are definitely reading too much into it. This is Geoff Cameron. That’s just a way of speaking.
    If you’re going to engage in Kremlinology with Geoff Cameron quotations as if his command of the nuances of the English language rivals Christopher Hitchens and whatnot, how do you reconcile “there weren’t really any pricks” with “Everybody was really, really, super nice”?

  21. b says:

    I agree, Cameron has potential at CB but currently his performance is nothing special.

    That is supported by the Castrol Index, which currently has him 198 in MLS next to guys like Soares, Gaven, Loyd, and Luis Gil. Not bad, those guys are all in the mix, but not great by any stretch of the imagination.

  22. b says:

    Bitter Brian Ching can gtfo… he showed in how he handled the whole Montreal Impact thing that he is a brat. He was left off the 2010 World Cup roster because he was old and injured and not good enough. He had no reason to be bitter, there are not reserved spots on World Cup rosters. And his performance in the 2010 MLS season where he was mostly injured and pretty much did nothing, only supports Bob Bradley’s decision to take guys like Gomez and Buddle.

  23. JG13 says:

    I know next to nothing about him, hence the “I’m probably…” disclaimer. You seem to be much more familiar with him, so I’ll take your word on the matter. It just struck as a strange thing to say if everyone was cool.

    As for reconciling the two phrases, I’m guessing the latter (and perhaps both) may be more about his previous camp and his expectations?

  24. b says:

    Bocanegra will be like 34 or 35 by then, hopefully Tim Ream or Omar Gonzalez will be there instead of him…

  25. biff says:

    I’m glad to see the reporter leave that quote in the story. It is a good quote, and so is this one: “They welcomed me and it didn’t feel awkward, where it felt before in the past. My first camp [in 2010 under then-head coach Bob Bradley] there were more cliques here and there, and those cliques would stay together.”

    This tells the reader that, at least in the eyes of a player new to the USMNT, that the team managed by Bob Bradley was cliquish and not welcoming compared the team now under Jurgen Klinsmann. The team last summer under BB did not look happy at all during the Gold Cup (espcially commpared to the way it looks now under Klinsmann), coming right after the fiasco of the Spain friendly and then the story line with Landon Donovan being benched after he and Clint Dempsey unexpectedly took off for their sisters’ weddings.

    I would love to see sports reporters be a bit more aggressive in reporting US soccer and more courageous, such as leaving in quotes like the one above instead of wimping out and cutting them for fear of rocking the boat. If Geoff Cameron is saying things like this, it would be interesting to hear what others on the team felt a Bob Bradly camp was like compared to a Klinsmann camp, not only the insiders, but guys like Jose Torres or Kyle Beckerman who made only a few camps. Did it feel awkward for them? Or especially Maurice Edu, who sat out almost all of the Gold Cup 2011 after he started against Spain and Spain scored three goals in the first half.

  26. eddie says:

    MLS club academies has to be paramount for player development and not rely on college soccer drafts. Skills are learned at an early age and defined in training academy systems.

  27. NaranjaFanatic says:

    I love Cameron but he has been far from flawless so far this season. Let’s not forget he gifted Seattle both goals in their 2-0 win over Houston. He and the rest of the backline of Houston need to quit playing like they just toked before the game. 85 minutes of great defending coupled with 5 minutes of, “Dude…my bad” is not good enough.

  28. Andy says:

    Ha yeah he seems like a solid guy to have around the team

  29. jlm says:

    Donovan arguably didn’t play at his highest level until he was at Everton 2 years ago when he was 27 or something. Gomez and Wondowlowski, are good additions to the list.

    Bradley and Altidore would fall under the “traditional” tag. Either way, it is not the end of the world if you are just starting to realize serious potential at the age of 26. If he is great from 28-32 and plays at a high level until 35 would you look back and say, “man, too bad he wasn’t a stud until he turned 27…”?

  30. jlm says:

    no they are not. skills are defined inside the heart and head of each individual kid as he grows up, develops a relationship with the ball, and learns the game…mostly on his own…

  31. Rowsdower says:

    he’s been a bit “off” in my book this season so far and I think that reflects in the entire backline of the Dynamo being off.

  32. Rowsdower says:

    my thoughts exactly