The case for Geoff Cameron: should US defender start vs. Belgium?

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An early shank against Portugal is the only mistake Geoff Cameron has made in a U.S. shirt so far in the 2014 World Cup.

However, the Premier League defender lost his starting spot to Omar Gonzalez for the final group game against Germany, and it will be a huge decision to see which player Jurgen Klinsmann goes with on Tuesday against Belgium.

Along with the decision to bring back in Jozy Altidore, who will play at center back is the other hot topic of discussion around the U.S. starting lineup.

[RELATED: How will USA line up? ]

[ RELATED: Three key battles in U.S. vs. Belgium ]

Many U.S. fans made Cameron a scapegoat for the USA’s 2-2 draw vs. Portugal after the shank and then the second goal they conceded in the dying stages, but I’m not buying that. It was a catalogue of errors. Fabian Johnson obviously didn’t give Cameron a call that Silvestre Varela was coming over from the right side, Cristiano Ronaldo was given far too much time to tee up a cross and the ball was lost cheaply in midfield to start with. The first goal, Cameron will admit, came from his mistake. Portugal’s second goal, that wasn’t down to him. You can’t help but think that after scrolling through Twitter in the moments after the game that Cameron, and Michael Bradley to a certain extent, were made the scapegoats. Both players are two of the finest and most experienced the U.S. has.

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Will Cameron find himself back in the starting XI vs. Belgium?

Regardless, now it is either Gonzalez or Cameron to start for the U.S. in central defense alongside Matt Besler. Gonzalez and Besler formed a formidable partnership in the USA’s qualifying campaign, while Cameron played at right back. Both candidates would do a good job and wouldn’t let the U.S. down against one of Europe’s best teams, but here is the case for Cameron.

“It was a good opportunity for us to give Cammy [Cameron] a breather,” Klinsmann said when asked about why Omar Gonzalez was brought into the starting lineup vs. Germany.

However you dissect Gonzalez’s performance against Germany, he didn’t do much wrong. One shaky clearance that resembled a shank early on was rectified by a string of fine defensive headers and a great last-ditch tackle on Mesut Ozil in the first half. Gonzalez’s solid display, coupled with Cameron’s benching, has now seen the Stoke City defender fall out of the picture for the USA’s round of 16 clash against Belgium.

Should Cameron start against Diables Rogues?

The main reasons why Cameron should get the nod ahead of Gonzalez at the heart of the USA’s defense are the following:

  • He is quicker…

Cameron is not the fastest player in the world but as a center back he possess great pace. Playing right back for Stoke all season, he has bombed on and supported the attack and tracked back pacey wingers with ease. He certainly has the edge over Gonzalez when it comes to being able to match the pace of Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, which will be crucial on Tuesday.

  • He has played in the Premier League for the past two seasons…

Okay, so we know playing in the PL is no longer the sole requirement for being a starter in Klinsmann’s team (we can see that from the large MLS contingent) but Cameron’s displays against the world’s best week in, week out, prove that he can do it when it matters. He has marked Eden Hazard, come up against Lukaku, Kevin Mirallas and Marouane Fellaini and not looked out of place. His experience against Belgium’s best players counts for a lot.

  • Fitness-wise, he is in top condition…

This is one of the major question marks surrounding Gonzalez, as the LA Galaxy defender was struggling with a knee injury throughout camp and the warm-up games. Gonzalez came through an entire 90 minute unscathed against Germany, but can a player who has had limited game-time over the past six-weeks really play two full games back-to-back in the space of five days? Cameron is in top shape and is not a risk when it comes to this aspect.

  • Remember that display vs. Ghana, yeah…

With Matt Besler having to go off injured at half time against Ghana, the U.S. looked to be in a bad spot as rookie defender John Brooks came on in his place. Cameron defended superbly throughout, making two vital blocks in the second half and his superb display knitted the entire defense together as Ghana piled on the pressure. Brooks got the heroics for his late header, but along with Jermaine Jones in midfield, Cameron was the main reason the U.S. bagged a win that proved crucial in their qualification from the dreaded “Group of Death.”

Mexico captain Guardado suffers hamstring injury

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With the World Cup still half a year away, there’s plenty of time to heal from injuries and get the body right after tweaking things during the club season.

And yet, there will still be some concern among Mexico fans.

Team captain Andres Guardado suffered a hamstring tear, his club Real Betis confirmed on Monday, and is expected to miss 3-4 weeks. That’s nothing to write home about when it comes to preparing for the big tournament, but with Guardado 31 years old and struggling with injuries in recent years, Mexico fans will be keenly aware that hamstring injuries can return with a vengeance if not given the right time to heal.

Guardado has shown his age in recent times, not necessarily with his play on the field, which has been critical to his country, but with his fitness. Guardado has just four full 90 minute performances for Mexico dating back to October of 2016, missing time with ankle, leg, and now hamstring injuries in that span.

The 31-year-old has had a fine season so far for Real Betis, scoring one goal and assisting six while appearing in all 15 La Liga matches for the club thus far. The club sits 12th in the La Liga table with 18 points.

Guardado will be fine with plenty of time to spare, but if not fully healed properly, there’s always the risk that muscle injuries can flare back up, and Mexico fans will hope that their captain’s club gives him plenty of rest to recover.

Mark Hughes wants Stoke City to “suck it up”

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Mark Hughes is under fire at Stoke City with the Potters firmly entrenched in the relegation battle, and with that he’s charging his players, staff, and himself to gut the rest of the season out.

With Stoke heading to Turf Moor to take on Burnley, they sit just three points above the drop. The players were faced with jeers from angry fans at the train station following this past weekend’s 5-1 disaster against Tottenham. The fiery Hughes is hoping to use this jarring moment to jolt his squad.

[ PREVIEW: Tuesday’s Premier League action ]

“That is still resonating. It’s good we have a game because it is still fresh in their ears probably, and they can use it as a motivating factor,” said Hughes during his pre-match press conference.

“You either suck it up and do ­something about it or you go under, and we can’t accept players like that. I don’t feel we have players like that.”

With managers nowadays often reaching into the excuses barrel as they hope to save their own skins, Hughes refuses to do just that, instead placing the decision firmly on the players shoulders, telling them they are the only ones who can save the club.

“Maybe some hadn’t ­confronted that before – but sometimes you need a reality check, and understand how our results and ­performances affect people,” Hughes said. “When people criticize you, you have to grow a thick skin in this industry. If you don’t, you’re in the wrong place.”

Louis van Gaal calls Mourinho’s United “far more boring”

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Louis Van Gaal has picked just the right time to pipe up.

The former Manchester United manager, who took flak while in charge for his side being hideous to watch, has now taken shots of his own at his successor Jose Mourinho, kicking Manchester United while they’re down after a 2-1 derby defeat at home.

The Dutchman told Fox Sports Netherlands, “If you ask me how did I do at United, I will say it was my best year ever, given the circumstances I was working under. We played football that was quite alright. But it’s not football that is appreciated in England. And yet, right now, looking at United, I have to conclude Mourinho is not being criticized while it’s far more boring football.”

[ PREVIEW: Premier League Tuesday matches, including Chelsea vs. Huddersfield ]

Van Gaal was blasted consistently for playing a boring style, especially in front of the home crowd, and now Mourinho is being criticized for the same concept. Mourinho was denounced for similar reasons while in charge of Chelsea, but with the club winning multiple titles under his leadership, the noise was always less while the team was winning. With Manchester United still unable to crack the top 4, Mourinho is feeling the heat.

“What United produce now is defensive football,” van Gaal said. “I always played attacking football. The proof is that the opposition were always parking the bus. They don’t do that now because Jose Mourinho plays so defensive.”

To van Gaal’s point, Manchester United is seventh in the Premier League in possession, holding 51% possession this season. They were out-possessed by Manchester City 65-35 at Old Trafford over the weekend. Meanwhile, van Gaal’s last full season with Manchester United, the 2015/16 season, saw the Red Devils hold 54%, which ranked third in the Premier League, just a percentage point behind leaders Arsenal. However, van Gaal’s United ranked 15th in the Premier League in total shots, while Mourinho’s United this season ranks sixth at this point.

Van Gaal made sure to point out he prefers their cross-town rivals.

“I would rather watch City play than United. You need quality in a squad and it’s clear City have a better squad.”

Conte blames fatigue for dip in Chelsea form

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Antonio Conte has figured out what is plaguing his Chelsea side as they sit 14 points back of Premier League leaders Manchester City.

“I think when you play every three days, it is impossible to have a training session and to work on the physical aspects,” Conte said in his pre-match press conference as the Blues get set to play Huddersfield Town on Tuesday. “It’s impossible. It’s impossible because you have to prepare with the players for a game every three days.”

Chelsea has yet to find itself eliminated from a single competition, drawn against Barcelona in the Champions League while navigating fixtures across all four competitions.

And yet, this is nothing new for Conte. The Blues boss is more than familiar with fixture congestion, having taken charge of Juventus and regularly competing at a high level on multiple fronts. In 2012/13, he won the Serie A title, won the Supercoppa Italia, and reached the quarterfinals of the Champions League.

However, this is new for Conte at Chelsea. Last season, the Blues did not take part in a European competition thanks to their disastrous season the previous year. While they reached the FA Cup final, they were knocked out of the EFL Cup in the 4th round.

“We have to try to do our best,” Conte said. “For sure, some players can be tired, that’s normal because some players are playing from this summer and our tours in China and Singapore. It’s normal. But I repeat we have to find the best solution. We have to find more rotations. I’m doing this, we will try and do our best with hunger and desire. We will fight.”

As an example, Conte said Alvaro Morata will miss the match on Tuesday against Huddersfield Town due to fatigue, with the Spaniard battling a slight back injury. “Morata is out. He is a bit tired and he has a problem in his back.