Geoff Cameron extended his stay at Stoke City until 2020 on Friday, signing a new two-year extension with the Potters.
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Cameron, 31, has been a regular for Stoke since arriving in 2012 from Houston Dynamo in Major League Soccer and he will become the first U.S. outfield player to play in eight-straight seasons in the PL if he sees out his contract at the bet365 Stadium.
The new deal for the Boston native came off the back of a strong second half of the season in central midfield after he missed almost four months with a serious knee injury he suffered in October.
Cameron was named Man of the Match for Stoke in their PL games against Liverpool and Chelsea in narrow home defeats and his play as a holding midfielder made his re-signing a top priority for manager Mark Hughes and the Stoke board as advanced stats company WhoScored rated Cameron as Stoke’s best player this season.
So, with the USMNT veteran ready to roll for the upcoming 2018 World Cup qualifiers against Trinidad & Tobago and Mexico on June 8 and June 11, should Bruce Arena consider using Cameron in the holding midfield role he’s been excelling in for Stoke?
He should, but if he takes Cameron out of his central defense role alongside John Brooks, who slots in? That’s the dilemma facing Arena.
There’s no doubt that the USMNT’s best defensive lineup is DeAndre Yedlin at right back, Cameron and Brooks in the center and Fabian Johnson at left back, yet Cameron’s qualities as a destroyer who can possess the ball and spring attacks would see him make the U.S. midfield stronger.
My mind always casts back to a World Cup qualifier against Panama in Seattle in 2013 when Cameron and Michael Bradley were partners in central midfield. They dovetailed perfectly and Cameron snapped in the tackles, provided a shield to the back four and allowed Bradley to roam further forward where he does his best work unlocking defenses and linking midfield with attack. Both also had key roles in a goal each as their poise on the ball seems them find one another easily.
For these crucial World Cup qualifiers it would be a gamble to take Cameron out of the backline, especially given his superb displays at the 2016 Copa America Centenario last summer, plus his heroics in the CONCACAF playoff against Mexico in October 2015.
If Cameron is pushed into midfield alongside Bradley it would make sense as Jermaine Jones, a favorite of Bruce Arena, is likely to miss the qualifiers through injury. Tim Ream, Steve Birnbaum or Matt Besler could slot in alongside Brooks in central defense and you would arguably make the U.S. a stronger defensive unit with Cameron shielding them.
It may not happen, but switching Cameron to defensive midfield, his natural position, should be something Arena considers heavily in the crucial qualifiers coming up.
He needs to make it a priority.