CARSON, Calif. – The next man looking to step into the breach for the United States at center back will on the Home
Depot Center field on Sunday. You probably knew that.
But it may not be the one you’re thinking about.
Yes, Omar Gonzalez is having a fantastic season, just named MLS Defender of the Year, and deservedly so. He’s
the youngest to win that award, and the native Texan’s future looks bright, for sure.
But don’t be shocked if Geoff Cameron isn’t the tall tree that turns heads on Sunday. He’s nearly as big
a Gonzalez just as adept at winning important challenges, probably a little more athletic and definitely a little
better with the ball at his feet.
Understanding Jurgen Klinsmann’s desire to deploy the men most comfortable with passing and possession, it
may indeed be Cameron who gets rises, eventually, into U.S. center back prominence. He may need another full
year of central duty at league level to iron out some positional wrinkles and such. But the framework is definitely
I talked to Dominic Kinnear earlier this week, getting one interview on tape for our Soccer Today broadcast. (You can
hear in later this week; go to this page, which includes our interview last week with Omar Gonzalez.) Kinnear
already said he had settled on center back as Cameron’s best spot, that the here-there-and-everywhere approach
in terms of Cameron’s positioning on the field was done. He said so during a national news conference on
So I asked Kinnear if Cameron had settled on it, too, if the young player felt in his heart that center back was his
home. After all, no one truly be their best (at anything) if they secretly want to be elsewhere.
Kinnear said Cameron had, indeed, embraced it fully. It sure looks that way. He’s been a wonder back there, paired
so effectively with Boswell. The Dynamo defense has permitted .80 goals a game during the current nine-match
unbeaten streak. Previously, that number was 1.26, with Cameron mostly in midfield. There’s a certain cause-effect
at work there, though it’s not all Cameron.
One deciding factor Sunday will be the Dynamo’s ability to clear crosses and then quickly clear their penalty area,
preventing Juninho or Beckham from targeting any long-range shots. That puts Dynamo center backs Cameron and
Bobby Boswell on the spot. Kinnear told me they were working on this very thing extra hard during sessions this
week. All that is to say, Cameron will be pressure-tested Sunday, probably his most important exam to date.
Klinsmann will surely be watching with interest.
Of course, Gonzalez will have something to say about it all.
The young Galaxy center back told us last week during the radio interview that the desire to play for Klinsmann’s
national team was so strong that it will likely impact his decision on where to play next. That is, it seems that
Klinsmann leans toward his European based talent, if only because they aren’t taking a two-month MLS break. (I
wrote about this previously in the Klinsi compromise.)
David Beckham and his desire to (possibly) close the MLS chapter of his playing days with trophy in hand will be
Sunday’s primary subplot. But in my mind, in terms of lasting effect, this one isn’t far behind.