Geoff Cameron is about to return to competitive action after nearly a month of inactivity while awaiting finalization of a $2.5 million transfer to Stoke City FC of the English Premier League.
Cameron’s work permit was approved last week, and he will be available to play in Stoke City’s opener at Reading Saturday. But first, Cameron has a date with the US national team for a visit to Mexico City Wednesday.
Ironically, Cameron’s lack of appearances with the US was what delayed the transfer. Cameron joined Stoke City last month but has not been eligible to play until now.
Cameron, whose last game was July 15 for the Houston Dynamo, has played in less than the required 75 percent of the national team’s games in official competitions over the last two years. Stoke City appealed Cameron’s eligibility based on other qualifications, such as his selection to the MLS All-Star team. The case for Cameron also noted there have been few opportunities in non-friendly US games since the 2010 World Cup, plus Cameron missed a national team training camp with an injury. Houston coach Dominic Kinnear and US coach Jurgen Klinsmann filed letters of support for Cameron.
The appeal was presented by Stoke City manager Tony Pulis to a government board in Manchester. Though Cameron has made only five US appearances, the work permit was issued and he was in the Stoke City midfield the next day in an exhibition match against Greuther Furth in Germany.
Cameron could be considered a late-developer. Growing up in Attleboro, Cameron was not a top collegiate recruit, much less in the national team program picture. After two years at West Virginia University, Cameron transferred to Rhode Island, becoming a third-round choice in the 2008 MLS draft.
Cameron played in midfield in his first season with the Dynamo, emerging as a starter and earning a US training camp invitation in January 2009. Cameron missed that callup with an injury and was not called again until January 2010.
Cameron made his US debut with a five-minute second-half appearance against El Salvador (2-1 win) in Tampa Feb. 24, 2010.
By the time Cameron played his second match for the US, he was a starting central defender against Scotland (5-1 victory) May 26 in Jacksonville, Fla.
Cameron’s recent emergence raised questions about how he could have gone unnoticed for so long.
At 6 feet 3 inches tall, Cameron stood out as a midfielder who could match up physically as a defensive presence but was also skillful enough to fit into the offense and go forward.
Part of the reason for Cameron’s low profile before reaching the professional level was size-related, according to Stacey DeCastro, who coached him in youth soccer at Bayside United and in high school at Providence Country Day.
It was not just that Cameron fell under the radar because he was small; sometimes he appeared to be losing his timing and touch, though he was simply adjusting to growth spurts, DeCastro said.
“He had a lot of natural ability by the time I got him,” DeCastro said of Cameron. “Even though he was very young, the work ethic was good, and he was easy to coach,
“He was already street smart. He loved the game; he was the first one to practice and the last to leave. He always wanted to play the game. He was a very tiny kid, then he got tall and started beefing up.”
Scouts were interested in Cameron’s teammates, and he accompanied one of them, Peter Karmue, to West Virginia.
“While he was in high school, you could see he had it — the question at the time was: Was he strong enough?” DeCastro said of Cameron. “College coaches don’t watch a lot of high school soccer, but they came to see Peter, my son, Matthew. I told them that with Geoff, he’s just a late-bloomer. There were rough days, when he was growing again, and was a little out of control with his body.
“But he was always so good technically. He had the skill, but there were hard days when he had growth spurts and struggled. College coaches saw him and didn’t know him like I did. After a month or two, he’d get out of it. He’d get back to normal only he was better — he was stronger and bigger.”
DeCastro had to be similarly insightful regarding Michael Parkhurst, a former Bayside United player who went to the Revolution and is now with Nordsjaelland in Denmark and in the US national team pool of players.
“For him it was his dream to be a professional player,” DeCastro said of Cameron. “A lot of kids dream and don’t do anything about it — they do every sport, dancing, piano. He did something about it. Soccer was what he wanted to do.”
Former Revolution forward Edgaras Jankauskas has taken on the role of assistant manager to John McGlynn at Hearts of Midlothian in the Scottish League. Jankauskas, an assistant to Jose Couceiro at Lokomotiv Moscow last season, won the 2006 Scottish Cup with Hearts. He was a member of title-winning teams in Belgium (Club Brugge), Lithuania (Zalgiris Vilnius), and Portugal (Porto), also performing for Porto’s Champions Cup-winners in ’04 . . . Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given retired from international soccer after playing a national-record 125 matches across a span of more than 16 years. The 36-year-old Given, who plays for Aston Villa, played at the European Championship this year in which Ireland bowed out at the group stage.