CARSON, Calif. – Geoff Cameron isn’t squandering his first camp with the U.S. national team in nearly two years. He’s got his head down and is soaking up as much as he can under the tutelage of Jurgen Klinsmann.
“I’m working hard and feeling comfortable,” the Houston Dynamo center back told MLSsoccer.com after a rigorous training session at The Home Depot Center on Monday. “I feel more comfortable here [in US camp] than I have before. I don’t know if it’s the group of guys – everybody seems to be enjoying themselves – but everybody’s putting hard work in.”
Cameron steps into his fourth USMNT camp, but his first under Klinsmann. And he is the type of prototypical center back his new coach covets. The 26-year-old’s experience over the past few seasons in Houston shifting between the back line and central midfield has brought out aspects of his game that the German coach employs in his up-tempo attack: playing balls out of the back and initiating possession.
“That’s what we try to do with the Houston Dynamo,” Cameron said. “But saying that, [Klinsmann] doesn’t want us to be a kick-and-run team. We want to build out of the back, but even if we lose the ball, we’re there in the right position to win it back and I think that’s what he’s trying to implement: the right spacing, the right formation and us being in the right position to nick a ball.”
Part of Cameron’s crash course in the Klinsmann Way was a fast-paced nine-vs.-nine drill during Monday’s afternoon session that focused on possession. Both units had the option of attacking a mini-goal 15 yards to the side of their opponent’s goal, which encouraged the team on the ball to quickly shift its point of attack laterally. The idea, Cameron explained, was to train defending teams to move as a unit to react. And for a mobile center back, that’s right in his wheelhouse.
“That drill was an example of being able to step up and put pressure on, but deny pressure in the right areas,” he explained. “Where you’re locking down one area and they switch it, can we slide over and shift as a unit? You look at teams like AC Milan back in the past, Chelsea and Manchester United when their defense was so solid, they moved as a formation.
“That’s kind of like what [Klinsmann] is building. It’s not necessarily a counterattacking style – we’re going right at it.”
Cameron is hoping for his second-ever U.S. cap and first since a cameo appearance at the tail end of a 2-1 victory over El Salvador in February of 2010. The Dynamo man was paired with Michael Parkhurst in last week’s scrimmage with the U.S. Under-23 squad and formed a solid center back pairing with the veteran in a 4-0 victory for the senior team.
The U.S. will face Venezuela in Glendale, Ariz., on Saturday (8 pm CT, ESPN3, Galavisión) and Panama in Panama City on Jan. 25.
Holden makes cameo, Agudelo still hobbled
Spirits were brightened at camp on Monday by the appearance of Stuart Holden, who is busy rehabbing his right knee. The Bolton man and 2010 World Cup veteran made a brief return to action last September following an ACL tear he suffered last March, but experienced a setback after a follow-up surgery revealed cartilage damage.
Holden isn’t participating in any on-field workouts, but will be using the January camp to continue his rehabilitation. He declined to speak with reporters on Monday but is expected to comment Tuesday, when the US scrimmage their U-23 counterparts a second time.
The verdict is still out on forward Juan Agudelo, however, who sprained his right ankle in last week’s scrimmage with the U-23s. According to a US Soccer spokesman, he will be reevaluated on Tuesday. The New York Red Bulls striker has not participated in drills since the injury and was wearing a soft boot on Monday.