JOHN KRETLOW - Monday, July 2, 2012
Since becoming a professional in 2008, Geoff Cameron quickly proved his value to the Houston Dynamo, and now the US National Team is beginning to realize his worth.
It seems likely that the center back will make his way to Europe soon, as rumors are running rampant of late. However, this should come as no surprise to those who are familiar with Cameron's growth as a national team member, Dynamo leader, and center back.
The 26-year old made his debut for the US back in 2009, but it was not until earlier this year that Cameron really broke onto the scene. In the annual January camp, Cameron was called in and featured in two international friendlies, impressing coach Jurgen Klinsmann along the way. The Dynamo ace was then called up to feature in the US camp that culminated in two World Cup qualifiers in June.
Cameron, who started and went the distance in the US win over Scotland and came off the bench to feature in the US draw at Guatemala, is still young in the national team picture and piling up valuable experience along the way.
One crucial aspect of this past experience was the grind of playing five games in a short period of time, mirroring a tournament situation. "They're trying to get us ready for the possibility of getting ready for the World Cup and how it's going to be," Cameron told YA. "Overall it was a great experience. I got to deal with the physical wear and tear of doing two-a-days, but it built our team stronger," explained the Dynamo star.
Cameron has also been introduced to the US coach's fitness philosophy to which American fans are just getting accustomed.
"Everything was taken to another level. Working with doctors, having personalized vitamins, it's only there to benefit us and bring us to a higher level for our nutrients and energy and this and that. That was fantastic."
This time around Cameron also was able to play alongside several US National Team stalwarts, as opposed to the January camp which was composed of several MLS based prospects. Cameron was on the field with veterans such as Clint Dempsey, Tim Howard, Landon Donovan, and Carlos Bocanegra, and his time with them was invaluable.
"The playing side, you can't get a better experience than playing with those guys on a regular basis. The high quality and intensity every single day was great. We were fighting for a position and an opportunity. It really caused us to bring our A game."
Although the dynamic of playing alongside his competition for center back is different, Cameron understands the importance of taking advantage of the veteran national team defenders.
"We're all fighting for time, but there's always encouragement from Carlos [Bocanegra]. He's always giving advice. He has the experience. He's been in two world cups."
"They're helpful always. They're trying to teach me tricks here and there on how to get a better opportunity scoring on a free kick or defending one. Positional things as well. How to relax on the field as a back four. We have confidence in you," spoke Cameron about playing with Bocanegra, Oguchi Onyweu, and Clarence Goodson.
"I'm 26 and I have to take advantage of that. My goal is to make it to a world cup. I'll be 28 by then and they'll be a bit older, so with that I have to get experience."
Cameron is obviously aware of the incredible opportunity he has had playing with the veteran defenders, but he is also cognizant that he is in a competition for playing time.
"It's tough. I'm coming from a team where I'm used to playing every single game. The other guys are coming from similar situations as well. It's four guys competing for two positions. Carlos is the captain. He's a steady player and he's going to be consistent. Then there's Gooch, Clarence, and myself."
Playing with the national team is all part of Cameron's growth as a professional soccer player, but one huge step he had to take was his transition into center back. Because of injuries and age within the team, Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear was forced to move the versatile Cameron to center back, and the 26-year old quickly made the position his own.
Not soon after, Cameron began to pick up accolades for his play at the back. He earned a place in the MLS Best XI in 2009, helped lead the Dynamo to an MLS Cup final in 2011, and now has forced his way into the national team center back pool.
"I think I'm learning the position a little bit more. Now that I'm full time that's when I learn. Now when I watch games, I watch the center backs and see how I would tell the midfielders to cut down the field, look at angles, and see how other center backs move their players here and there. I'm looking at how to pick things up and acquire new habits."
Dynamo fans have become accustomed to Cameron's unique style as a center back, and now the national team public is starting to see the intricacies in his game that make him special. This style of his comes from his time as a midfielder.
"I know what it is to be a center midfielder. There I don't like my center backs just pumping the ball up. Especially when you have someone wide open in the center. Things like that. I have good feet, and have confidence with the ball at my feet. You can initiate attack from the back. That's one of my strengths."
The natural next step in Cameron's career appears to be a move across the pond, but for now the Dynamo defender is relishing his time playing at the new BBVA Compass stadium in downtown Houston.
"It's been a long time coming. It's a fantastic venue and it's bringing a lot of fans out. Also fans that haven't been there from game one are coming out. We're getting new fans. There's a new buzz around the city. It's a hot ticket to go to."
Houston is currently in fifth place in the Eastern Conference and hoping to make a return to the MLS Cup final in November. Cameron hopes to continue his ascent as a professional and bring another title back to the Bayou City, and of course help the national team qualify for the World Cup in 2014.