Houston's Cameron battles temptation in center back role

HOUSTON – Houston Dynamo defender Geoff Cameron admits it: He has to battle his instincts during games. 

The midfielder turned defender has the rare ability to make dangerous runs out of the back and put pressure on the opposing defense. But while it’s tempting to bomb forward at every opportunity, Cameron and the Dynamo know there has to be a method to the madness.

“He can’t [go forward] every time because percentages are it won’t work every time,” Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear said of Cameron’s decisions to push out of the back. “But I think he’s pretty smart in doing that. … When the timing’s right and Geoff’s stepping into the space and reading plays, it puts pressure on the other team and makes us better.”

Choosing the right time to go forward can be the difference between creating a scoring chance for the Dynamo and opening up a counterattack opportunity for the opponent. Sunday’s 1-0 win over Chivas USA was an example of what Cameron goes through.

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During the match, Cameron entered midfield several times to provide service and add to the attack. On one foray, he put in a dangerous 40-yard through ball that led to a Will Bruin scoring chance.

But there were other times when Cameron checked himself, starting forward and then stopping abruptly to maintain his defensive position and play the ball to his midfield instead.

“It’s chess play,” Cameron said. “You have to move the whole team around when one guy in the back takes up 10 to 15 yards of space. If no one steps up to him, then he’ll just keep going and he has a free opportunity to pass the ball through. … If I can go once in a while and catch them off guard, then I can catch teams on their back foot and take advantage of it.”

Cameron feels that his fellow backliners have the same attacking qualities as he does, so balancing his runs with theirs is part of his decision-making process. And to him, it’s that process that needs to keep improving for him to become increasingly effective.

Make no mistake about it, though: His position may have changed, but his attacking tendencies are as strong as ever.

“I see an opening, and, if I was a center mid, then I’d be gone,” Cameron said with a smile. “But I’m a center back now and I don’t want to go every time because teams are going to recognize that.

"There are times when I’m going to go and I hold back and I think, ‘Could I have gone?’ But that’s part of the game and you need to have that feel to be effective.”