World Cup candidate Geoff Cameron isn't shying away from competition

World Cup candidate Geoff Cameron isn't shying away from competition
Stoke City defender Geoff Cameron chases down the ball during an English Premier League game against Aston Villa. (Paul Ellis / AFP / Getty Images)

On the same day U.S. Coach Juergen Klinsmann invited 30 players to a three-week training camp to compete for a spot on his World Cup team, England's Roy Hodgson announced his final roster for Brazil.

So did Japan. The week before, Brazil and Mexico announced their teams. And France would soon follow.


So which approach is better? Is it better to put players through the angst and the stress of fighting for a place on the 23-man team, as Klinsmann is doing? Or is the comfort and confidence of knowing you've made it preferable since its allows players to focus on the real competition next month?

"Competition’s great," says Geoff Cameron, a candidate for the U.S. team at defender who made his first appearance at the team's Stanford University training camp on Sunday. "That’s how teams excel. If you don’t have guys pushing each other, challenging for positions, then the team kind of goes stale a little bit.

"If there's no one pushing behind you, maybe the player gets complacent and just kind of takes his foot off the pedal. But if you have three or four guys challenging every single day, every single week, I think guys raise their game."

But then again, what's Cameron supposed to say? When he reported to camp Sunday, not only was he not guaranteed a seat on the plane to Brazil, he's not even sure what position he's competing for.

One of 11 defenders in camp, Cameron played right back this season for Stoke City of the English Premier League. But Michael Parkhurst and Tim Chandler play there.

So perhaps Cameron will move to the center, where he's played before. That could mean backing up the Major League Soccer tandem of Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler, who combined to make 26 starts for the U.S. team in 2013.

For his part, Cameron says it doesn't really matter.

"It's the World Cup," he said. "Anyway I can help the USA, I'm going to do that. So whether it's playing right back, center back, whatever. I'm up for it, and I'm ready to go.

"I'm willing to do anything. Being versatile is obviously a good thing, and I think it can help me out."

But the difficulty of moving around can be complicated by a lack of familiarity and chemistry with those players around you. Cameron said one of the underappreciated aspects of a long World Cup training camp is that it provides both the time and the place to build those relationships.

"You have a couple of weeks now. So you get chemistry every single day," he said. "Hanging out at the hotel, hanging out around here, training. That all plays a part of success on and off the pitch."

And now Cameron is trying to catch up on that. He and goalkeepers Brad Guzan and Tim Howard were excused for the first four days of camp because their club seasons in England didn't finish until May 11. Still missing are midfielder Jermaine Jones and forward Aron Johannsson, who had club games in Europe over the weekend.

Also on Sunday the Galaxy's Gonzalez, who has been nursing a knee injury, took part in full-team workouts for the first time.