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Geoff Cameron’s bizarre USMNT omission explained

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Many of you will still be scratching your heads as to why a fully-fit Geoff Cameron flew over 4,000 miles to be an unused sub for the U.S. national team over the past week.

Here are some answers.

Despite playing a full 90 minutes for Stoke City against Southampton before the international break, U.S.defender Cameron did not play a single second for the USMNT as they crashed out of the 2018 World Cup.

Why?

Pro Soccer Talk understands that Cameron, 32, held talks with Bruce Arena at the start of the international break where he was told he was not fit enough to play and Omar Gonzalez would be playing ahead of him. End of discussion.

[ MORE: Was is impact of USA missing the World Cup? ] 

Cameron was, understandably, frustrated with the decision after working his way back to full fitness (after two weeks out with a hamstring injury he suffered against Manchester United in mid-September) and proving his sharpness for Stoke in the Premier League.

Asked for a comment by Pro Soccer Talk, Cameron didn’t want to get too involved in the debate over why he wasn’t used by Arena: “This is not the time for me to get involved in this discussion. It is for someone else to explain why.”

No other center back in the current U.S. squad had more caps than Cameron heading into the last international break and his experience could have made a huge difference.

Shown on TV sitting off to the side of the U.S. bench next to drinks cooler at the archaic Ato Boldon Stadium as the USA’s World Cup hopes faded late on against Trinidad and Tobago, Cameron’s blank expression said it all. He was resigned to watching on in the USMNT’s moment of need.

The former Houston Dynamo star is said to have accepted the decision but it remains a bizarre one. Particularly when analyzed after the fact that Gonzalez scored a horrendous own goal in the defeat at T&T, plus the U.S. defense was generally shaky in both of their final two CONCACAF 2018 World Cup qualifiers.

[ MORE: Latest USMNT news

Arena could have brought in Cameron in place of Gonzalez (who played for Arena at the LA Galaxy in their 2011, 2012 and 2014 MLS Cup winning teams) or even gone with three at the back at T&T in the Hex finale where a point would have been enough to take them through to the World Cup.

Pro Soccer Talk understands the squad has since questioned the tactics from the manager to go gung-ho with the same starting lineup just four days after beating Panama in a draining must-win situation in Orlando. Playing a diamond in midfield and not giving Michael Bradley extra help to protect a shaky back four is also said to have particularly frustrated several members of the USMNT.

When it comes to Cameron’s omission, this is all rather confusing.

Before the international break had even started, and Cameron had even got back on the pitch for Stoke City, Arena confirmed the center back would be in his squad for the crucial games no matter what.

Arena then made a point of calling out his two center backs against T&T, Gonzalez and Matt Besler, in his most specific criticism of the team shortly after their shocking defeat.

“Our center backs were not confident enough with the ball, and often in the first half we were really playing eight against 10 because we needed to carry the ball and bring a player to the ball and move it a little bit quicker,” Arena said.

Cameron is, no doubt, the USA’s best ball-playing defender. Composure on the ball is what he is know for.

So much so that he often excels in central midfield for Stoke City and did so markedly at the end of last season where he won several Man of the Match awards against Chelsea and Liverpool in home games for the Potters. Of outfield USMNT players, only Clint Dempsey has played in more Premier League games all-time than Cameron and he signed a new deal with Stoke last May as he’s now in his sixth-season with the club and hugely valued by Mark Hughes and the Potters’ fans.

There is no doubt Cameron has had some tough times for the U.S. with his display alongside Tim Ream in the USA’s defeat to Costa Rica in September heavily criticized, even if his own mistake came late in the game with the match already lost. But he did come off the bench and played a big part in the U.S. grabbing a point at Honduras a few days later to prove that the Costa Rica performance was just a blip.

He has also put in sublime defensive performances for the U.S. in recent years with one of the best-ever displays from a U.S. player at the Estadio Azteca back in the summer as he held the USMNT’s defense together as they clinched a point at Mexico in a World Cup qualifier. Not to mention his display, and goal, in the 2015 CONCACAF Cup for a spot at the Confederations Cup and his rock-solid partnership with John Brooks in the USA’s run to the 2016 Copa America Centernario semifinals.

All of this adds up to why serious questions should be asked about Arena not starting one of his key players in the USA’s biggest two games of the past three years.

Will Cameron suit up for the USMNT again?

It remains to be seen what lies in store for him and many other U.S. national team veterans such as Clint Dempsey and Tim Howard but the road appears to be coming to an end for most. A friendly game on home soil could perhaps be scheduled next month during the November international break for them to say farewell as they retire from international duty.

As we continue to dissect the decisions on the pitch which cost the U.S. a World Cup spot for the first time since 1986, Arena’s bizarre decision to omit Cameron will be seen as one of the key reasons they didn’t make it to Russia 2018.

Study: MLS improves racial hiring, slides in gender hiring

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A diversity report shows improved racial hiring practices for Major League Soccer but also highlighted a continuing decline in gender hiring efforts.

The annual report card from The Institute for Diversity and Ethics in Sport (TIDES) at Central Florida on Wednesday gave MLS an A with 93.9 points for racial hiring in 2019 for its highest score in 15 years.

[ MORE: Top 25 players in USMNT pool ]

But the gender score of 72 points for a C grade fell for the third straight time, down from 76.8 points in 2018 and 81 points as recently as 2016.

The overall grade for MLS was a B at 82.9 points, falling from a B-plus and 85 points in 2018.

TIDES director Richard Lapchick, the lead report author, called lower gender hiring numbers across men’s professional sports a “systemic problem.”

Online: http://tidesport.org/

Follow Aaron Beard on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/aaronbeardap

Medel: Chile players decline friendly over civil unrest

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Chile had already canceled a home friendly with Bolivia this international break, and now the players will not play Tuesday in Peru either due to unrest in their country.’

A nationwide strike and protests against the government, spurred by a rise in metro fares, have Chile on edge.

[ MORE: USMNT-Canada preview ]

La Roja stars Gary Medel and Arturo Vidal both posted lengthy messages on their Instagram accounts, saying that the decision was made “in response to the social moment in our country.”

They urged both protestors and law enforcement to turn away from violence.

From Mega.CL:

“We are soccer players, but above all people and citizens. We know that we represent a complete country and today Chile has other priorities much more important than next Tuesday’s game.”

Chile is ranked No. 17 by FIFA and 22 in Elo Ratings.

Slumping USMNT big favorites v. Canada

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Let’s start with two statements which might be a bit controversial given the tone and tenor of the United States men’s national team program.

  1. The CONCACAF Nations League very much matters to Gregg Berhalter’s era and the program in general, even if the coach’s job is not in jeopardy and the tournament is in its infancy.
  2. The USMNT are the oddsmakers’ heavy favorites to win (nearly +500), even given the current injury problems, and it will be shocking but not surprising if they lose to the Canadians.

Point No. 1 might be a bit surprising, but this is a competition with silverware and Berhalter hasn’t won any of it yet in his tenure as USMNT boss. It’s also relevant because losing to Canada twice in a month after not losing to them since the Billboard No. 1 single was the sensual “One More Night” by Phil Collins.

And even without Christian Pulisic and a raft of injury excuses, plus taking into account Canada’s sincere re-emergence on the CONCACAF scene, the USMNT has no business losing a meaningful match at home to a team that, while improved, has far more holes than the hosts.

If you remember from October, Berhalter didn’t call upon his men to press an inexperienced Canadian back line (I just realized I’m still angry about this). There is literally no way he’ll do that at home.

If John Herdman keeps his backs the same as the one that shut out the Yanks at BMO last month, he’ll have Kamal Miller, Derek Cornelius, Steven Vitoria, and Richie Laryea out there. Three of the four aren’t full-time starters for their MLS clubs (Vitoria is an every week man in Portugal’s top flight). Goalkeeper Milan Borjan (Red Star Belgrade) is capable of stealing a result, but shouldn’t have the chance if the Yanks pressure the ball on Friday.

The midfield and attackers are where the U.S. will have its hands full. Alphonso Davies and Jonathan David beg speedy and/or smart defenders. John Brooks being in the mix should help in both counts, plus he’s the best passing back in the pool right now.

Whether the match is cagey or comfortable will come down to the midfield. Scott Arfield is going to make it difficult on the Yanks, but Alfredo Morales plays with a nasty streak and will not be as bullied as his peers were in Toronto.

The one thing to fear is how bamboozled Berhalter was by Herdman’s plan in Ontario. This isn’t to pile on the coach, who is known for his tactics but hasn’t seen them deliver against too many opponents of quality. Herdman may be the novice in terms of overall club experience, but he’s got a better handle on the international game.

If the Yanks look out-foxed and unprepared on Friday, that’s a big problem.

How will the USMNT line up versus Canada?

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No Christian Pulisic.

No Tyler Adams.

No Timothy Weah.

No Michael Bradley, Matt Miazga, and no Zack Steffen, either.

Ugh.

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Still, the United States men’s national team will be favored to get a home decision over Canada on Friday as the CONCACAF Nations League begins its final two match days of the group stage.

How will Gregg Berhalter line up his team without so many key components?

Goalkeeper: Brad Guzan is probably going to get the start here, and he won’t kill the team, but we’d love to see Sean Johnson get a chance to improve on his 100% clean sheet success rate across two tournament caps for the U.S.

Back line: It would be insane if Sergino Dest didn’t start at one of the full back spots given his election of the USMNT over the Netherlands. Also insane would be not starting a finally-healthy John Brooks.

After that, it seems likely Berhalter will opt for Aaron Long to pair with Brooks. If his left back option is Dest, then it’ll be DeAndre Yedlin at right back (or Reggie Cannon). If Dest is on his preferred right side, than Daniel Lovitz may get a look over Tim Ream on account of the speed in Canada’s attack.

Midfield: Might Berhalter pull back an attacker and use a four-man midfield against the Canucks? Weston McKennie and Alfredo Morales will take two spots, and it seems pretty likely Jackson Yueill will get the chance to be a deep-lying playmaker with McKennie and Morales running their shorts off to make his life easier. We suppose Berhalter could opt for Wil Trapp over Yueill. It’s possible. A little too possible.

Attack: Josh Sargent is going to get the center forward spot, and it would be wild if Jordan Morris doesn’t join him. Then it’s down to Tyler Boyd or Paul Arriola, exciting versus a bit safer. And Arriola would give him more of a midfield presence than the forward-thinking Boyd.

Here’s how we think Berhalter starts in Orlando:

Guzan

Yedlin — Long — Brooks — Dest

Yueill

Morales — McKennie

Morris — Sargent — Arriola