MEXICO CITY — Geoff Cameron, welcome to the big time.
When the 90 minutes were up at the Estadio Azteca on Wednesday night and the scoreboard read 1-0 for the US, one of the players undoubtedly circled in journalists’ notebooks was Cameron.
The former Houston Dynamo star, who completed a move to Premier League side Stoke City this summer, was a massive presence in the center of defense, keeping the likes of Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Aldo de Nigris off the scoresheet. It was a baptism by fire for a player who entered the match with only five caps to his name.
“I grew up watching the US play in Mexico,” he said after the match. “The rivalry. To be a part of it for the first time speaks for itself.”
The fact that the Americans got their first-ever win in Mexico owes a great deal to Cameron’s central-defense partnership with Maurice Edu, who is normally a holding midfielder. The pair worked together in training for only two days, but rarely seemed out of step with each other.
“I thought our communication was great,” Cameron said. “We kept our line pretty tight. We tucked in our outside backs. And obviously tried to organize our defensive center mids to cut down those passing lanes.”
“We said if there is a moment to give a new backline a chance, it is in a game like this,” manager Jurgen Klinsmann said. “Because it’s extremely difficult and you have to prove right away if you are capable of doing it or not. The way Mo and Cam played in the center … that means a lot to us. They deserve a big compliment.”
The biggest compliment, according to Cameron, came from Chicharito. The Manchester United forward was typically active for Mexico, constantly looking for a seam to run into or a pocket of space to exploit.
“Chicharito’s movement is first-class,” Cameron said. “You always have to be aware of him falling off your back shoulder. … There was one play where the ball came across and I fell in the net. I got a slight touch to the ball, though, and Chicharito was like, ‘Hey, well done, man.’ And I’m falling down in the net and tripping over my own feet.”
Cameron can expect to see more of the same when Stoke City take on Manchester United on October 20 at Old Trafford. Before that, Stoke will open their EPL season this Saturday away to Reading.
Although Stoke manager Tony Pulis said he sees Cameron as a defensive midfielder, Cameron will most likely return to center back when he rejoins the US squad for their upcoming World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica on September 7 and 11.
Having come through his first Azteca experience with flying colors, he seems ready for anything.
“This was one more game under my belt where I have the experience of playing in this environment,” Cameron said. “That’s what Jurgen wants to do. He wants to bring in these guys and give them more and more experience because you never know what’s going to happen.”