Geoff Cameron is a proud Bostonian and on Tuesday he will line up for the U.S. national team less than 15 minutes from his hometown, Attleboro, Massachusetts.
You can take the boy out of Boston, but you can’t take Boston out of the boy. That old adage is appropriate when it comes to Cameron.
Having played in England’s top-flight for the last three years — making 103 appearances for Stoke City in the Premier League — time spent away from his homeland, and New England in particular, will make nights like this even more special.
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Speaking to ProSoccerTalk on the phone from a hotel in Downtown Boston, Cameron revealed he has sorted out tickets for over 60 friends and family who will cheer on the U.S. for their friendly against Brazil on Tuesday.
The man from Massachusetts is looking forward to returning to his neck of the woods.
“The last time I was back here playing in front of them was my last few games for the Houston Dynamo in 2012. I haven’t been back since because I’ve missed the last few trips with the national team,” Cameron said. “I am excited to be back and play in front of them. It’s always special when you’re playing in front of your family and friends but at the same time nothing has changed, I just want to go out there and do well and perform every single game.
“But it is a little more special because this is the area I grew up in and, as a kid, I was the one looking down from the stands at Foxborough wishing I could be playing in front of my family and friends. It will be a special moment.”
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So, how would he sum up Boston and the New England region, the place he lovingly calls home?
“Let’s just say that it is probably the best sports town in America with the most championships,” Cameron said as his roommate Alejandro Bedoya roars with laughter in the background. “Seriously though, the fans are so passionate here. For this region, we all love our seafood and there are plenty of bars down by the water and we love sports. Overall, Boston is a beautiful city with a lot of history. For me, it is one of my favorite places and to be able to call it home, it’s amazing. Instead of going on vacation in the summer, I usually come home and spend time with my family and friends because it is a place that I love and it’s where I grew up. It is a place where I can relax.”
Boston runs through Cameron’s blood. He is a die-hard Boston sports fan who realized one of his dreams last summer when he threw out the first pitch at a Boston Red Sox game following his return from the 2014 World Cup with the USA. Attleboro is less than 10 miles from Gillette Stadium, a venue which has seen many national teams games, houses the New England Revolution of Major League Soccer and hosted World Cup games in 1994. It was at one of those matches in ’94 where a young Geoff Cameron looked on in awe as he took in his first-ever soccer game.
“My first game was the 1994 World Cup, I remember sitting in the stands and saying ‘I want to play out at the stadium and the highest level.’ I went to Revs’ game and I always wanted to do that as a living, that was my goal,” Cameron said. “I remember going to watch the national team train at Foxoborough when Marco Etcheverry was there and watching guys like Joe-Max Moore and Earnie Stewart came and did a few appearances in the area where I grew up. Those were my early memories and there’s no doubt Boston is a huge area for soccer.”
On what will already be a special night for Cameron’s family, another reason to be excited is that his father, Scott, will be making the trip to see his son play. In recent years Scott has suffered with serious heart issues, meaning transatlantic trips to watch Geoff play in the PL with Stoke have been limited.
Cameron still calls his father before every single game he plays and having his Dad in the same stadium as him on Tuesday will be a special moment.
“Every weekend my Dad and my family watch me on TV over in England,” Cameron explained. “But with my Dad being sick over the last couple of years with a serious heart problem, for me it makes it special for me because he hasn’t been able to get out to England to watch. Hopefully we will be able to get him out to a game there this year. I’m happy he will be able to make it out to the match against Brazil. It will be a late one but I’m sure he will rest up and save his energy so he’s alright for the game.”
The versatile defensive player made his return to the U.S. setup for the first time in almost a year on Friday, playing his first minutes of 2015 after Stoke requested for him to be left out of the 2015 Gold Cup roster with Cameron struggling to overcome nagging injuries sustained throughout the 2014-15 season. Coming on at half time with the U.S. trailing Peru 1-0 at RFK Stadium, Cameron played at right back and helped set up the first goal and put in a strong display in the 2-1 comeback victory, which was praised by Jurgen Klinsmann in his postgame press conference.
“It was great to get my first few minutes back with the squad,” Cameron said. “I have just got to keep working hard and try to help the team in anyway I can and focus on making sure I’m playing my game and doing the right things. Hopefully that will help the team and we will go from there.”
The game against Brazil on Tuesday will be a step up as superstars like Neymar, David Luiz and Kaka roll into Foxborough aiming to put on a show. The U.S. is determined to put on a show of its own.
“We all know the caliber of players they [Brazil] have and these guys play at the highest level, clubs like Barcelona, PSG, Real Madrid, Bayern Munich and whatever but they are players too and we just have to make it uncomfortable for them,” Cameron said. “We all know they are a very good team but we are going to do our very best to make it a tough game for them and we’ve shown in the past that we can beat them.”
Many fans of the USMNT will have more than one eye on how the team performs against Brazil as its the USA’s final game before facing Mexico on Oct. 10 at the Rose Bowl in the huge CONCACAF Confederations Cup playoff. The winner will represent the region at the 2017 tournament in Russia and that’s something Cameron and his teammates are desperate to be a part of.
“It’s a massive game for us and for them too,” Cameron said. “It’s going to be a big test and challenge for us but if we play the way we know how to play and all the things slot together, then there’s no doubt in my mind that with the belief we have in each other’s ability, we will come out on top. But we know it is not going to be an easy game and it’s probably the biggest game we will have because we want to go to the Confederations Cup. That would be massive.”
Switching the focus to the current Premier League season, Cameron and Stoke City is winless through their opening four games but have had to deal with plenty of adversity along the way, including late goals against and two red cards in the same game against West Bromwich Albion.
“Obviously we are disappointed,” Cameron said of the start to the season. “Giving up a goal in the 88th minute against Liverpool in the season opener, we should have picked up a point there. Getting a point away at Tottenham was a big point, then a point at Norwich was okay. Then you go home and you play West Brom and get two red cards in the first 25 minutes after we dominated the opening stages and then even after we went down two men we still created chances and the effort and belief we had in each other was strong. We were disappointed we couldn’t have got a point there but the results will come. We are getting better the more times we train and play together. Guys are getting comfortable with each other and the fluidity is improving. Offensively we will get better, guys will click and its shown. Bojan is coming back and hopefully we can start doing some damage up top. I think the back four and defensively we’ve been pretty good. We’ve had unlucky results, but that luck will turn.”
For Cameron, he’s started all four games in his preferred position at center back alongside his good friend Marc Muniesa, with their relationship developing on the field as well as it has off it, and he even popped up to play the role of hero and scored the winning penalty kick in a League Cup win over League Two outfit Luton Town.
“I really like playing with Muniesa, he’s a guy where we have a really good friendship off the field,” Cameron said. “He’s one of my good friends and that relates to on the field. We communicate well on the field and know each others strengths and weaknesses, plus we are both confident and controlled on the ball and like to keep the ball out of the back. We organize the guys in front of us, it’s positive and we are going in the right direction. We, as a team, just need to keep it going.”
“You could say scoring that penalty kick was more like a feeling of relief,” Cameron added. “I was just glad that I was able to put it in and Shay [Given] saved the shot before me to give me a little less pressure.”
It’s safe to say Cameron will be feeling a little more at ease on Tuesday when he performs in front of his friends and family in familiar surroundings just down the road from where he grew up.