Coming into the season, the Houston Dynamo felt the pairing of Lovel Palmer and Geoff Cameron would solidify their central midfield. However, things look to be changing as the team pushes into the back stretch of the season.
With Palmer serving a suspension against D.C. United on June 25 after receiving two yellow cards against Columbus the week before, head coach Dominic Kinnear inserted Je-Vaughn Watson next to Cameron to see what the pairing could do. Three games into the lineup change, the pair is showing potential as a dangerous two-way duo.
“I think it’s going well,” Watson said. “We’re similar players who can play both defensively and offensively, so I feel it’s a good partnership.”
Cameron was a known commodity coming into his fourth season, showing flashes of ability in the middle of the park. Watson showed creativity and flare during a preseason trial, but his arrival in Houston from Jamaican club side Sporting Central after the season started, as well as Gold Cup duty with the Reggae Boyz, made it difficult for him to break into the lineup.
“It really wasn’t the pairing we were expecting going into the season,” Kinnear said. “But they’re two good players who are physical, and when they get around the ball they can win a bunch of challenges.”
The similarities in their styles make the pairing different from previous combinations. Traditionally, the club has played a true holding midfielder such as Eintracht Frankfurt’s Ricardo Clark paired with advanced midfielders such as D.C. United’s Dwayne De Rosario and Bolton’s Stuart Holden.
Cameron and Watson are of a different mold. Both are creative players; each can get forward while also having the ability to play defense. The pair is still working out the finer points of their partnership, which, predictably, has come with some growing pains.
“They do like to take chances going forward, which is good, but sometimes you want to be more conservative,” Kinnear said. “They do take turns going forward, which is good, but we want them to consistently keep the ball.”
Still, the work rate and potential the pair has shown gives the team something to build on in the middle of the attack.
“They do a lot of the hard work in midfield, when they’re surrounded by players, that sometimes go unnoticed,” Kinnear said. “We notice the amount of work they put in, because it makes it easier for us to keep the ball.”
Watson added that, although the pair is still working on things, they have one goal in mind.
“We have to talk a lot and we have to do the work on and off the ball,” Watson said. “We have to do that work to make the playoffs, because in the end, that’s what we want to do.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on twitter at @Dynamoexaminer.