Geoff Cameron's position for the United States has never been obvious, mostly because his position in his club career has been even more up in the air. He's played just about everything but striker and goalkeeper for the Houston Dynamo and Stoke City, and it's probably hurt his national team career. He goes into World Cup training camp without a clear role, but Jurgen Klinsmann has an opportunity to change that quickly.
Klinsmann has stated on multiple occasions that he sees Cameron as a central defender, but it's tough to throw him into the fire at that spot when he's not playing there regularly for his club. He's played a decent amount of CB for Stoke City, but he's used much more often as a right back. He looks great in that spot in England, but he's struggled to adapt when playing on the right for the U.S.
There are four roles Cameron could potentially play for the United States in Brazil. They're listed below, in order of preference.
4. Starting right back
Four years ago, if I told you that the United States would have a first choice right back on a solid, mid-table Premier League club, but that he wouldn't fit into the USMNT setup in that position, you would have wondered what the hell I was talking about. But this is the reality for Cameron, who is usually left more isolated in that position under Klinsmann than he ever has been under Tony Pulis or Mark Hughes.
Cameron might get shoved into this role simply because of the United States' struggles at this position, but he's really the fourth or fifth best option. If Timothy Chandler is fit and has a good attitude about playing for the U.S., he's the obvious best choice. Meanwhile, Brad Evans hasn't embarrassed himself there, Michael Parkhurst is just as good on the right as he is in the center and Fabian Johnson is about as good at right back as he is at left back. The prospect of DeAndre Yedlin starting against Portugal or Germany is terrifying, but it won't come to that.
3. Swiss army knife
Klinsmann is going to have to make the best of his substitutions to compete with superior teams, and Cameron makes an excellent sub at multiple positions. Not only is he a great defensive midfield sub, but he can be used in an "attacking midfield" role as well if Klinsmann wants to defend from the front late in a game and use him like Dominic Kinnear did for a season in Houston. Cameron would like to start, but having a four-position sub on your bench is nice.
2. Starting defensive midfielder
Yes, I prefer this to starting him at right back or on the bench. Count me among those who is not a huge fan of Jermaine Jones.
It's not that I dislike Jones or think he doesn't bring anything to the table. I just think he's a very poor complement for Michael Bradley, who should probably be the less disciplined of the two midfielders in a U.S. lineup. Bradley is the USMNT's best player and should be freed up to find pockets of space to drift into and make runs forward when the situation calls for it. With Jones alongside him, he becomes a de facto holder. Why not play someone next to Bradley who actually likes to hold and who's smart enough to know his role is to get the ball to Bradley, not play hero ball?
1. Starting right central defender
Some of the best national team managers ever have disregarded club form and position entirely. They know which players they want in their team and they know what they want those players to do. Given Omar Gonzalez's shaky form for club and country, as well as his fitness issues, Klinsmann would be wise to adhere to that philosophy. Cameron plays right back for Stoke, but he's the United States' best right central defender, and that's where he should start.
It makes sense not to throw Cameron into a somewhat unfamiliar spot in a spring or fall qualifier, but Cameron has a month to form a partnership with Matt Besler and learn what Klinsmann wants out of him in the center of defense. He's played that spot before and he can play it again, especially with this much time in camp.
But where's he most likely to end up?
I don't know the answer to that question. We're unlikely to have a good one until the open training session before the United States' first friendly match, and even the information we get from that might be a smokescreen. It wouldn't be surprising to see Cameron spend some time in all three positions he's adept at over the three pre-World Cup friendlies. But hopefully, by the end of the Jacksonville match, we'll know something about how Klinsmann plans to utilize Cameron.