If you visit this website, I can safely assume you know Geoff Cameron and Bruce Arena aren’t exactly besties. Both were involved in the World Cup qualifying debacle and their mutual dislike has played out in public after the fact like a daytime soap. The latest episode comes in the form of a New York Times piece by Marc Stein. Stein traveled to Manchester to interview Cameron, who holds nothing back in his opinions and criticisms of Arena and the World Cup qualifying failure. The best part, however, is that Stein called Arena for his reaction to Cameron’s comments and Arena happily obliged! Let’s look at some of the best hits.
Cameron: There’s no doubt in my mind that, if Jurgen Klinsmann was still our head coach, we would have qualified for the World Cup.
Cameron: Our names will go down as the team that didn’t qualify. It’s on us as players, but at the end of the day, I’m convinced if they would have kept Jurgen and not done such a drastic change, I think we would have qualified. I know we would have qualified. Instead we’ve gone backward.
Geoff Cameron has weighed in on one of the ultimate what if questions surrounding U.S. Soccer. What if the federation had not fired Klinsmann after the first two Hexagonal games against Mexico and Costa Rica but let him navigate the remainder of the round? We will never know. He is absolutely right, however, in saying that we have gone backward.
Bruce Arena’s Decision-Making: Match Fitness or Team Fit?
Cameron: Listen: I hold my hand up — I didn’t play well against Costa Rica.... I made a mistake; their second goal was my fault. But it was the 88th minute and we were down 1-nil. I tried to do something to help the team and I got caught out.
Cameron is of course referring to the 2-0 loss to Costa Rica at Red Bull Arena on September 1 where he and fellow centerback Tim Ream played poorly. Neither player would see the field in the last two World Cup Qualifiers.
Cameron: Bruce Arena made decisions that cost us going to the World Cup. And I don’t have a problem saying it, because we had the right group of guys.
Based on Cameron’s quotes and tweets we can infer he is alluding to Arena’s choice of formation and starting eleven in Trinidad.
4-1-3-2— Geoff Cameron (@GeoffCameron) November 7, 2017
Only needing a tie to qualify, Arena opted to field the exact same starting XI that beat Panama 4-0 at home just days prior. It was an attacking lineup and formation (4-1-3-2) in a game that didn’t require one. Worse yet for Cameron, it didn’t include his name and he is still infuriated by that.
Cameron said Arena spoke to him before the last two matches and informed him he would not start either game due to fitness concerns. That explanation had confounded Cameron since he had just played 90 minutes in a game for Stoke City before leaving for national team duty.
Cameron: But I would have more respect for a coach to say: ‘You know what, Geoff? I don’t fancy you today. I think this is a better lineup.’ I’d say: ‘O.K., no problem, you told me the truth.’ But if you tell me I’m not fit enough, that’s like an insult to me as a professional.
Naturally, Arena responded.
Arena: Could Geoff have been in the starting lineup that day? Yes. But the problem with Geoff throughout 2017, at club and national-team level, was inconsistency and some injuries. “Geoff started five games starting in November 2016 through October 2017. Our record was 1-3-1 — that plays a role. I don’t think 2017 was that impressive of a performance for the player. When the stars and the moon and the sun are aligned properly, Geoff is a very good player. They don’t all align properly all the time.
Clearly, Arena’s decision was not about match fitness but rather team fit and performance. He had alluded to this at the United Soccer Coaches Convention when he mentioned “there were a couple of bad eggs.” He followed by telling those in attendance, “You’ll read about one of them in the next day or two in The New York Times.”
Compelling to say the least. I’m sure this is not the last time we will hear from either man.