HOUSTON – Mark Hughes has a track record of utilizing American talent to earn success in the English Premier League. He employed Brad Friedel in his time at Blackburn and was the manager overseeing much of Clint Dempsey’s run of success at Fulham.
Now at Stoke City, he once again will be looking to capitalize on American imports, most notably with Geoff Cameron and Brek Shea. The US internationals are part of a group that Hughes is trying to get to know better and impart his attacking system on as he begins his stint at the EPL club. (Maurice Edu is also on the Potters' books, though he is presently working his way back from a sports hernia injury.)
While Shea is on international duty with the US national team, Hughes will use Wednesday's BBVA Compass Dynamo Charities Cup match against the Houston Dynamo (8:30 pm ET) to give Cameron the chance to find the position for which is he is best suited.
“He’s impressed me, very much so,” Hughes told reporters of Cameron at Tuesday’s press conference. “He’s a big character and I like that trait in him. I think he’s been frustrated with his time at Stoke because maybe he feels he hasn’t played in his most effective position. I’ll be looking to play Geoff tomorrow in a number of positions that he’s looking to play at.”
The former Dynamo star has long been considered a center back or central midfield player. Yet in his first season at Stoke, Cameron found success at a position – right back – that he’d never played in his career. Which raises the dilemma, if his career lies in the middle, should he move in from his fullback spot? Under a new boss, he's hoping to earn that chance.
“I’m fighting for a position at center back or center mid,” Cameron told reporters after Tuesday’s training. “It was tough playing right back when I never played it before going to the EPL. It was one of those things where I dealt with it and had a pretty good season, but there’s more to come.”
Hughes wants to use preseason to get Cameron in a position to succeed, while in the case of Shea, he’s just trying to get a first-hand look. That look has been delayed as Shea helps the USMNT in the Gold Cup, which will have him in Arlington, 200 miles north of Houston, on Wednesday night.
The veteran Welsh manager says that while Shea can play left back, he sees his future with the club and in the EPL on the left wing, but needs to get to know him. That’s why he'd rather him be in Houston Wednesday.
“Obviously I don’t want to wish ill of the US of A, but I hope they get knocked out,” Hughes quipped with a smile. “He wanted to be part of the national team and I understand that totally.
“From my point of view, in the Premier League, he’s a bit of an unknown quantity and he hasn’t been able to have the impact as of yet that his ability deserves,” the Stoke manager continued. “I’m looking forward to working with him and am just frustrated at the moment that I haven’t seen sight or sound of him.”
Darrell Lovell covers the Houston Dynamo for MLSsoccer.com.