Cameron shows quality, versatility in central midfield in USA win vs. Panama

Geoff Cameron

Photo by ISIphotos.com

By FRANCO PANIZO

SEATTLE – The U.S. Men’s National Team already held a 1-0 lead, but Eddie Johnson knew there was more room for them to exploit against Panama.

Johnson went over to Geoff Cameron at halftime to let him know he had more time on the ball than he knew, and to try and pick Johnson out during one of his marauding runs forward on the right flank.

Cameron heeded the advice, as in the 53rd minute he delivered a pinpoint ball in behind that defense that allowed Johnson to break in on goal for the second tally in Tuesday night’s 2-0 World Cup qualifying win at CenturyLink Field.

That sublime assist may have been Cameron’s most impressive moment in what was a dominating performance from the Americans, but it was hardly his only one. Cameron, who was filling in as a central midfielder in place of regular starter Jermaine Jones because of a concussion, also provided strong defensive play in front of the back line and his ability to snuff out Panama’s attacks time and time again kept the U.S. back line largely untested.

“We asked him to, obviously, win a lot of balls back, cover the two centerbacks, and have a strong, strong presence in there,” said Klinsmann. “I don’t know how many balls he recovered, he was constantly there and then we asked him to play it simple and he did that. I said, ‘Once you get that ball, then just keep it simple. Find Michael Bradley, find Clint (Dempsey), find the players around him and cover our two centerbacks.’

“It was huge, it was a huge performance by Cameron. For us, it’s really important to see that players step in if somebody is injured, if somebody (is) yellow carded like it happens now and it gives us just even more confidence going into the next game knowing that whoever steps in now will get his job done.”

A natural central midfielder who only somewhat recently made a permanent switch to defense for club and country, Cameron’s reading of the game and discipline in the center of the park also provided Bradley, his partner in the middle, the ability to push forward a little more than he does when Jones is starting.

Bradley and Cameron played off one another well, which allowed for the U.S. to string together several long passing sequences and dominate a Panama side that was unsuccessful in trying to come out and put the Americans on their heels.

“As a midfielder, you’re constantly trying to read the game, you’re trying to find space, you’re trying to find the spots on the field where you can make an impact,” said Bradley. “At times, that’s going to be defensively, at times that’s going to be attacking-wise. Sure, if you’re playing with Geoff, the situations that you find yourself are going to be different.

“Obviously, there’s going to be the opportunity to be a little bit more mobile at times, to be a little more two-way, to find the opportunities to move forward  into the attack. I think that understanding was good tonight, but every guy who stepped on the field tonight should be proud of what they did.”

Cameron is likely especially proud of his outing. It was his first start in midfield under Klinsmann and came in a moment when the U.S. needed someone to fill the big hole left behind by Jones’ absence, which further showed the Americans’ depth and the 27 year-old’s versatility and worth on the team.

It also was surely gratifying for the lanky Cameron considering he recently had been displaced of a starting spot in the U.S. defense, where he had been getting the nod game in and game out up until the 4-3 triumph against Germany in a friendly earlier this month.

“He was awesome, he was awesome,” said goalkeeper Tim Howard. “He’s easy on the eye, he jumps well, he runs well for a guy whose got a really long loping stride, he’s coordinated, he didn’t lose too many balls and kept it simple when he needed to.

“The amount of plays he broke up, where he stuck his long leg in there and got a toe on the ball and went the other way, there was probably five, six, seven of those, which is key. We did it without giving away fouls, I think that was a key tonight, and he was very, very calm in there, which helped kind of dictate the tempo.”

There was also that gorgeous assist to Johnson, too.

“I saw that (Cameron) had time on the ball and he was on his strong foot,” said Johnson. “I knew if he was on his strong foot and the ball was out off his foot, I could make a run in behind.”

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79 Responses to Cameron shows quality, versatility in central midfield in USA win vs. Panama

  1. SanFran415 says:

    Starting-quality utility players are diamonds in the rough. He reminds me a lot of Phil Jones and his performance was top notch.

    But lets not kid ourselves here. Jermaine Jones is the best defensive midfielder we have. Period.

    • MN Footie says:

      Re: JJ – in a vacuum, I’d agree with you. And as I’ve posted elsewhere, we shouldn’t jump to conclusions about any single-game performance. But even if Cameron is not as good as JJ, if by having him, Bradley is able to move forward more, then I think he’s a keeper. Time will tell.

      • Philly Union Rule says:

        If Blas Perez is up top for Panama in that game, Does Cameron’s performance get tested a bit, and we are all begging for Jones to be back in there?

        • Hogatroge says:

          Likely, but who says he fails that test. Cameron was formerly an MLS star and currently is an EPL player with a good amount of starts in the midfield under his belt. Honestly, Stoke was doing a lot better with Cameron in the midfield before they moved him to RB.

          He’s gone up against players as good as (and much better than) Perez before.

    • Rich D says:

      JJ is a very skilled and aggressive player but sometimes the other traits of a footballer are better for the team. Playing internationally sometimes has more to do with a players poise and disposition rather than their actual technical ability. Cameron has a kind of sleepy way about him that helps the team relax and focus on build up play rather than playing frantically and lobbing the ball forward without trying to maintain posession.

    • Matt says:

      I would value Jones EVEN MORE if he would reduce his fouls given. The “bite” he brings is good to intimidate the other teams certainly. But at some point his fouling is not only a potnetially lost possession/passing sequence for us to have gained, but then a turnover to the other team…when recoverign possession was the entire idea to begin with.

      Jones could learn somethign from Cameron…finesse can work sometimes.

      • SanFran415 says:

        That isn’t Jones’ job. He is the destroyer. And he’s very good at it.

        This year for USMNT – 5 games played – 1 yellow

        Examples of world cl@ss players at fouls/cards in UCL:

        Javi Martinez – about 10 games played – 4 yellow and 26 fouls
        Felipe Melo – about 7 games played – 4 yellows and 23 fouls
        Sergio Ramos – about 8 games played – 5 yellows and 20 fouls
        Arbeloa – about 6 games played – 5 yellows and 18 fouls

        Could go on.

        • RP says:

          I hear you.. And I’m a big fan of saying Jones is in many ways the best player on the team..

          But let me qualify this.. Jones is a destroyer. He runs and wreaks havoc. One a champions league side the players around him do the job of playing simple, pushing forward, breaking down defenses etc.. Therefore, Jones is the guy that simply runs, runs hard.. and plays “strong safety”.

          On the USMNT with our current players, we should try out the different role that Cameron brought yesterday. We may find out it works better for us. We need someone to keep it simple.. make the classy quick re-direction. Stay home. And tackle.. not neccessarily enforce.

          Cameron made everyone around him better.
          Jones usually has the luxury of bruising people while everyone around picks up for him.

          • Jesse D says:

            +1 I totally agree. Cameron’s touch can be a liability. The way Jones plays he is often more of a liability than an asset.

    • dude says:

      Jones is better than Bradley? News to me.

      I don’t care how talented Jones is, but I don’t think Bradley has ever had a better PARTNER. Jones is dynamic and has plenty of bite, and can provide something classy from time to time- but allowing Bradley to get forward as much as he wants? Contributing an assist? Shutting down everything in the middle? Man. Jones as an individual, excellent. As a midfield partner, he’s far from perfect.

      • SanFran415 says:

        Bradley is an attacking midfielder.

        • Nate Dollars says:

          don’t think bradley’s been an attacking midfielder since his time at heerenveen. think he would make a great box-to-box, but, especially in his time with the usmnt, he’s solely a d-mid or regista-type (depending who our opponent is).

        • dude says:

          ha, no he’s not. Dempsey is an attacking midfielder. Johnson is an attacking midfielder, who plays on the wing but cuts inside. Bradley’s a defensive midfielder with offensive ability. That’s what he is to Roma, and that’s what he is to us. For us, he just happens to be our most important midfield distributor, and we try to maximize his offensive output as much as possible without sacrificing defensive stability. Cameron allowed him to do that in ways that he never could with Jones.

          We play a 4-2-3-1, and the 2 have to hold down the fort defensively as well as get the ball to our front four in positions that help them the most. That Cameron provides Bradley freedom to join the front four more often is great.

          • Nate Dollars says:

            i agree with pretty much everything you said, except it seems we’re no longer playing a 4-2-3-1, but a 4-4-1-1 or 4-4-2, where bradley/jones are playing a double pivot, and cameron plays more of a pure d-mid.

            either way, bradley still doesn’t play as an attacking mid.

            • Mi says:

              I agree he doesn’t play as a cam, but that doesn’t mean he couldn’t be an attacking mid

      • john brovsky says:

        Good point. I agree.

    • TomG says:

      It isn’t just about who’s the best player, but about how the players mesh together. It is possible that MB plus Cam is greater than MB plus JJ. Ideally, you’d love to get all your best talent on the field at the same time but, as we saw with the 3 DM fiascos of last year, balancing the roles on the team is sometimes more important than simply plopping you best XI on the field.

  2. BFBS says:

    Frankly, I don’t recall the last time a player exceeded my expectations to the degree that Cameron did last night. I hope Mark Hughes was watching.

  3. Dinho says:

    Joint Man of the Match with Bradley. Cameron was EVERYWHERE. I actually liked his pairing with MB better than that of JJ and MB. Not saying Cameron is better than JJ, but the interplay and understanding between him and MB was outstanding.

    And, his ability to cover the centerbacks (as referenced by JK) was great. He made Besler and (especially) Omar look better.

    Well done, Geoff. I second the comment about hoping that Hughes was watching.

  4. Guest says:

    I believe the centennial crest has some magic to it. Althouh team chemistry has gotten much better over the past few months.

    • HoboMike says:

      What are the chances that we’ll keep that crest? Because I haven’t met one person yet who likes the other one more.

      • Alex says:

        Yeah, the Fightin’ Waldos gotta go.

      • Old School says:

        @HoboMike: Preach.

        The crest is classic, timeless and looks amazing in it’s simplicity.

        However, the previous/current “logo” for USMNT is corny as f*ck. I don’t care what the three stars are for, it’s ridiculous and embarrassing.

        It makes so much sense for the federation to keep the classic logo, so as a result…they will revert it back to the horrible one.

      • whoop-whoop says:

        I am so with you on that. That crest is simple, classy, classic… unique… immediately says USA. Starting to have some mojo too!

      • JC says:

        We need to start an online petition. Get enough signatures to support a permanent change of crest. Spread the word through AO and there will be enough people to make some noise. Would love to see the new crest in Brazil.

        If that doesn’t work I’m boycotting buying any gear with the old crest on it. $$ talks.

    • Bevin says:

      Guess I’m in the minority here, I actually like our non-centenial crest.

  5. Ali Dia says:

    Anybody else notice the alarmingly long list of important players we now have on the cusp of yellow card suspension? Versatility and depth that players like Cameron provide are critical.

    • thought that for most of the game…then Geoff got a yellow to close the game out.

    • Bac says:

      Yea I think almost the entire starting 11 is carrying yellow…except Jermaine!!??? Should make for interesting call ups in August

    • Nate says:

      Yellow card trouble for the US so far (updated 6/12):

      ONE YELLOW
      B. Evans 6/7/13 @ Jamaica
      B. Davis 3/26/13 @ Mexico
      Besler 3/26/13 @ Mexico
      Deuce 10/16/12 v Guatemala
      Edu 6/12/12 @ Guatemala
      F. Johnson 6/12/12 @ Guatemala
      Bradley 6/12/12 @ Guatemala
      Howard 6/11/13 v Panama
      Cameron 6/11/13 v Panama

      TWO YELLOWS
      Beasley 3/26/13 @ Mexico
      6/11/13 v Panama
      (misses game v Honduras 6/18/13)
      Zusi 9/11/12 v Jamaica
      6/7/13 @ Jamaica
      (missed game v Panama 6/11/13)
      Jones 9/7/12 @ Jamaica
      10/12/12 @ Antigua & Barbuda
      (missed game v Guatemala 10/16/12)
      Goodson 6/12/12 @ Guatemala
      9/7/12 @ Jamaica
      (missed game v Jamaica 9/11/12)

  6. Nick F says:

    For those of us Houston Dynamo fans, this performance is not that surprising. He’s played attacking midfield for the Dynamo before and always looked comfortable on the ball and breaking up plays. Not sure why many were holding their breath on him, but it was probably because they had not watched many games with him in that kind of role.

    • Hogatroge says:

      As a Dynamo fan, I am pleased to see Cameron’s success with the US since last January. Like you said, most of us aren’t surprised.

      For those who didn’t follow Cameron before his USMNT days, though, there’s reason for some surprise. First, while originally used as a CB for the Nats, he hasn’t played CB for club in over a year. Second, Stoke used him in the midfield for the fall before moving him to RB. While his CB performances for the US were still decent, his 2 (or 3) RB performances weren’t that great. His RB performances for Stoke haven’t been amazing either.

      Maybe Hughes will give him a look in the midfield or at CB again. Apparently, not many people are holding their breath, though.

  7. whoop-whoop says:

    Cameron was awesome… had as complete and comfortable a game as I’ve seen him have in a US jersey. Very fun to watch.

    I don’t recall there ever being a US team/pool so full of multi-faceted players not only capable of filling in with confidence and competence at multiple positions, but having proved it. Off the top of myhead; FJ- LB/LW, DMB- LB/LW, Evans RB/CM, Cameron-CB/LB/RB/CM, Herc-RW/F, EJ-LW/RW/F, EDU-CB/CM, LD-LW/RW/F, Holden RW/CM. Klinsman’s mantra about operating outside ones comfort zone, and putting guys in position to do so is beginning to pay off. Tell you what, this type of adaptability adds tremendous depth and resiliency and confidence in players and most importantly, a team. “No matter what happens, we have the pieces/cajones to deal with it”. This quality can make all the difference in the World in a long tourney where injuries, cards etc are inevitable. Contrary to a few months ago, there also seems to be building chemistry… the team seems to enjoy spending time together, playing with and FOR each other.

    Alright boys, lets please stay focused and finish up this run of games w/ a big W against Honduras… put Brazil on lock-down and keep the good times rollin’!!!

  8. ed - houston says:

    His play from yesterday reminds me of a “friendly” game, our charities cup, against Monterrey a few years back, where he was outstanding at center back the whole game, surprisingly because it was gainst Monterrey. We won that game 3-0 and he hit a thru-ball with the outside of his right foot from the edge of his defensive third, yes from way back there. I don’t believe it was an assist, just a good scoring oppurtunity for the pass’ recipient. Monterrey, surprisingly for a friendly, played an A team (so did we).
    It’s good to be verstile, to a certain extent, but it would be nice if he settled at one position for club and country.

  9. biff says:

    I’ve always been a big fan of Cameron from the very beginning. He always give 100% and plays with total heart. And, unlike a few other USMNT fans, I felt he was solid at right back for the USMNT and I still think he is a better right back than Brad Evans and better than that joker who always finds ways to turn down invitations from Klinsmann and who has played in only — count ‘em — two games in 18 months.

    In an pinch, I actually think Geoff could play attacking midfielder.

  10. malkin says:

    Wait, Tim Howard really called Cameron “easy on the eyes”???

  11. TD says:

    I have to say, he had a very shaky first 20 minutes. What’s most impressive is that he shook off the nerves and really settled down to have an outstanding game.

  12. Chris says:

    amazing by Cameron, also look for Feilhaber, Jose Torres, Bedoya, Gatt, Mixx, Shea, LD to make a strong statement for Midfield consideration. Add to that list Danny Williams and Edu who aren’t participating but are regarded highly by JK in the depth chart.

  13. Bac says:

    Let’s face it, anytime someone has a breakthrough performance half the people on here are ready to annoint him the next starter , which is then followed with a new starting 11 lineup. The guy played awesome last night, and his EPL experience showed….
    But the BEST result of last night’s performance isn’t whether he should start over JJ, it’s that he’s now WELL ahead of Edu or Beckerman… giving this team much better options in the event of cards or injury

  14. Nate Dollars says:

    i’m going to be the debbie downer on here, i guess, but i thought the main reason both bradley and cameron looked so good was because panama essentially conceded the center of the field to us.

    to be clear: they still had good games, but i think bradley, for whatever reason, is not as solid as he has been for the usmnt, and people should reign in expectations on cameron at mid until he plays (internationally) against a team that doesn’t give him quite so much time and space.

    • Amru says:

      Negative Nancy over here. If anything that gives credit to how dominant Bradley and Cameron were that Panama eventually just gave up trying to play through the middle of the field.

      • Nate Dollars says:

        um, okay fine, negative nancy then.

        and panama didn’t ‘eventually just give up playing through the middle’, they never really tried from the start.

        • Francois says:

          Did you miss the entire first half? Panama was pressing extremely high up the field, and every time Cameron or MB received the ball, they had a player on their backs. The reason we gained so much control after the first 30 minutes, is because we played quickly through the middle, one and two touch, and broke through their pressure. Go back and watch the game.

          • Nate Dollars says:

            i’ll have to watch it again, because the only time i recall either cameron or bradley being pressured was when they drifted back to our back line, and were being pressed by the panamanian forwards; once they got past the forwards, the field was wide open.

      • GW says:

        amru,

        Mr Dollars is correct. Panama and most of the rest of CONCACAF don’t really have big, all action midfielders like Mikey and JJ. Maybe Roger Espinoza with Honduras.

        Instead they tried to work around them. Panama were going at Evans all night.

        This does not take away from the fact that MB90 and Cameron had a great game.

        • Nate Dollars says:

          well said, better than i did.

          also, your comment about panama targeting evans reminds me of something about eddie johnson (or graham zusi, i guess): evans had the benefit of a real two-way player in zusi in front of him the previous two games, and i thought it was very apparent in this game that, especially against better opposition, he’ll need someone who offers more defensively than eddie johnson to help him out (much like fabian/beasley on the other side).

    • QuakerOtis says:

      Curious. When has Bradley played better?

      • Nate Dollars says:

        since i’m a big fan of bradley’s, it’s easy for me to say he’s played better a ton of times; i think it comes down to the fact that he really doesn’t make too many noticeable mistakes (even if he sometimes plays a little too safe)–but the past few games, he’s been misplacing p@sses he normally makes, over-pursuing on defense, not following his mark, and just plain getting beat.

        again (from my first comment), he’s certainly not playing poorly, and he’s still one of the best performers on the team. he just looks a little ‘off’.

  15. james says:

    I think klinsi is doing great, honestly. I think with these games he is trying to simulate group play in the world cup. I believe that id why he is making people play with yellows and not subbing. He is trying to train them to fight through fatigue and bookings to prepare them for Brazil. I think he deserves credit for jozy too. He pushed jozy to mature more and to better himself by calling him out when he wasn’t performing. I think klinsi is big on psychology and it is really showing through.

    I still like jones over cameron. You cant judge cameron on a game against a weekend panama team. Jones has proven he can play at the highest level and is more of a threat than cameron. Although, that ball to eddie was great.

    • the unmistakeable Ronaldinho says:

      That’s kind of a stretch. There are so many qualifying games and only 2 yellows get you a suspension. Its inevitable that we’re going to have a few guys miss games because of it. He’s playing his best lineup available to him and will deal with the suspensions when they come. We can’t hide almost our entire starting lineup from the field for 5 games fearing they will get another yellow.

  16. Joe A. says:

    Cameron’s always been highly capable. We just need to let him settle into a position and I think CB would be the right position for us to play him.

    • Joe A. says:

      I know some people will continue to defend Gonzalez but I just don’t think he should start against the high quality teams we’ll eventually be facing.

      • jay says:

        He’s gonna be playing at a top team in europe come fall, he’s still young and learning, and he gives the team an amazing height advantage on set pieces and with balls into the US box. Give him time to learn on the job, there really isn’t any other way to…

    • GW says:

      Mr A.

      When Cameron does not play CB with his club, it shows up when he plays there for the US.

      Cameron has a new boss so maybe he will play CB at Stoke or maybe Hughes sticks him in midfield.

      Regardless either Gonzo or Cameron, if he is not at CB for Stoke, will need time to get sorted at CB

      Besler seems to unanimously be secure in his spot so who do you move, Gonzo or Cameron? I don’t see Gonzo at right back or in midfield do you?

      I’m pretty sure if Gonzo keeps playing below your standards, eventually JK will do something. I think JK has shown he sticks with players for a reason. But from a practical standpoint, for now, the way it is he gets some use out of both players instead of committing completely to one and trashing the other one.

  17. kkicks20 says:

    I think it’s interesting how Howard says: “The amount of plays he broke up, where he stuck his long leg in there and got a toe on the ball and went the other way, there was probably five, six, seven of those, which is key. We did it without giving away fouls…” Interesting because let’s be honest… JJ would have probably broken up those same plays, but probably with more fouls in there. If Cameron can break stuff up, but without fouling, that might be something to consider when comparing the two players. I have always been a Cameron fan though, so I would love to see him in there over Jones.

  18. Jonny says:

    I guess I’m the only one who thought that Cameron consistently stuck out for his poor passing? Also, he failed to track his runner quickly enough at least once, leading to a dangerous opportunity for Panama.

    As I’m only recently paying much attention to qualifying, I have no preconceived value judgement of him, so perhaps he outplayed all your lowered expectations, but overall was not impressive to me.

  19. Travis says:

    MY OPINION is it isn’t about Cameron or Edu, etc. The issue is a lack of balance in roles between Jones and Bradley. Does JK want Bradley to lead the midfield or does he want Jones? They can’t both do it and based on what I see, Bradley is better at it. Jones has a few great tackles, followed by one that earns a yellow or red. Does JK have the courage to sit Jones for the betterment of the team…? I don’t think he does, but it works better without Jones.