This interview conducted by Jay Bell.
TSG got a chance see Geoff Cameron for the first time, live and in person, in January Camp last year and we were impressed with the speed and vertical game of the 6’3” midfielder-defender.
The the MLS season opened and Cameron was to be a vital cog in the Dynamo’s midfield–especially with the absence of veterans Stu Holden and Rico Clark who beelined it for Europe.
West Virginia Rhode Island alum seemed to be making strides with a new role as a central playmaker in the early going when…wham..he got sideswiped by a knee injury that relegated him to the rehab center for three months.
Cameron returned in August and gave fans a glimpse of what to expect from him next year now that he’s back to full fitness.
TSG’s Jay Bell took a moment last week to speak with one of Houston’s chief dynamo’s, Geoff Cameron.
The interview’s a long one, so we’ll get right into it.
TSG: Well to start off on kind of a low note, this was a tough season for you and your team. What was the toughest part for you?
Geoff: For me, individually, it’s got to be getting that blow in Chicago, my knee injury. It was something that I’ve never encountered and it was a pretty big, major injury. I was very fortunate enough to be out only three or 4 months instead of 8 months and my season ending. So I think that, individually, that was the toughest part for me, being out for those 3 to 4 months and watching my team struggle. And I’m just sitting back helpless, you know. Then being able to come back and getting out on the field . . . we had a hard time getting out of the habit of losing. Dom said that a bunch of times. It’s really, really hard to get out of the habit of losing, especially just making silly mistakes in the 88th minute or the 90th minute and giving the lead up.
TSG: Now you said you had the injury to your knee. That was your first major injury, right?
Geoff: Yeah yeah, I’ve never had any other. I mean, I’ve had hamstring injuries and all that kind of stuff, but nothing like severe where I tore something or anything like that.
TSG: Do you feel like you’re still working your way back to 100% or do you think you have come back stronger?
Geoff: I think I’ve come back stronger. I feel stronger than what I was before. I still have some aches and pains in it sometimes, and that’s just from working it out hard and all that kind of stuff. Other than that, I feel great.
TSG: What do you think was the key during your whole rehab process?
Geoff: Just mentally preparing myself; mentally staying sharp and watching a lot of soccer. And not just watching it as a fan, but actually studying it. Studying the tactics, the way people move on and off the ball.
I think I told someone else before my favorite player to watch in the World Cup was Schweinsteiger. He was one of the best central midfield players in the World Cup. I just watched how he moves, he receives the ball, how he opens himself out, how he always got out of situations where I could find myself in a game. Just doing that mentally helped me out.
Getting back on the field where I was still confident in a way of knowing that I could possess the ball, but I had to get comfortable with my body and my knee, and I think that was the hardest thing to overcome. Especially being able to train and stuff. It’s still not the same as being in a game, like getting in the first tackle or whatever. You still aren’t sure about your knee and then all of a sudden you get that tackle and you’re like, “oh I feel great.”
Then you just kind of set sail from there.
TSG: So you said you studied a lot while you were out. Do you think you’re not only coming back stronger physically, but also coming back stronger mentally?
Geoff: Yeah. I mean, the best thing to do is to watch soccer. I think that helps out in any sport, whether its basketball, baseball. You’ve got to know your opponents and know the game as best you can. Being able to watch the best players in the world, especially a team like Germany and how entertaining they were and why were they so good. Just how players move, how everybody supports one another. You take from that and bring it back to the training field and I think you better yourself as a player.
TSG: When you’re studying and watching the World Cup while you’re out injured, what part does Dom Kinnear and just the Houston coaching staff play in all that?
Geoff: Nothing, really. I mean, well obviously you want to produce for the Dynamo. The game is always on in the locker room and whatnot. So they’re always encouraging guys to watch the games, but it’s up to the individual himself. If you want to watch a soccer game then watch the soccer game to better yourself. I think there’s always on the training field, we would always talk about, “did you see that game today?” or this and that. You discuss it where some players would always be like “did you see that giveaway, did you see how it cost us a goal?” How it relates to every giveaway or every missed opportunity in a game is another opportunity for the other team to score. You can see that in the MLS. You can see that in the EPL. You can also see that in the World Cup on the international stage.
TSG: When you’re going through that process and your rehab process, does it help to have such an experienced coach like Kinnear?
Geoff: Yeah, he was always giving me some reassurance. He’s like “you’ll be fine” and this and that. He’s like “I’ve gone through some pretty big injuries as well.” And it’s always good for players, especially a guy like Dom who has played professionally and he knows. He knows how hard it is to come back from an injury and things like that because he has encountered that. To get that reassurance of, “Hey, you’ll be fine. You’re going to come back stronger than ever.” It’s true because he’s speaking from experience and that’s always good to get that reassurance from him. He’s always positive when it comes to any guys encountering injuries or anything like that because he knows, he’s experienced it before.
TSG: Have you and the coach or the coaching staff had any conversations about what is going to be happening this offseason?
Geoff: About renegotiation for myself?
TSG: Well both for yourself and the team as a whole.
Geoff: No, we had individual meetings at the end. I would say about two weeks ago.
There are things going to change with the Dynamo. That’s just plain and simple. They made that announcement at the end of the year. There’s always change at the end of the season. There’s always someone that’s going to be gone or some new guys coming in, especially with the new roster size with the reserve league coming back.
There’s going to be more new faces and some of the older faces are going to be gone. They kind of told us that and whatnot. I’m not in the loop of everything. So I’m just kind of out in the open with everybody. If I hear things on the radio or if I see things on the internet that “Oh we signed this player,” it’s like, “Oh cool, I’ll get to meet the person in the preseason.” Other than that you go with your daily business, your daily schedule, you kind of just do your own thing. I’m sure Dom called and sent e-mails out to some guys to see how they’re doing and whatnot. That’s pretty much it.
TSG: What kind of changes do you think need to happen with the club this offseason?
Geoff: I’m not really sure, you know. To be honest I thought we had a pretty good team this year, especially coming from the Western Conference final last year. I know losing Stu and Rico was a big part, but we had players to fill in. It was tough because for some reason last year the mistakes that we made weren’t capitalized on. There was always someone to cover for another. This year it seemed like every mistake we made we were punished for.
Maybe that’s just from lack of experience or just bad luck this season. I thought we proved it at the end of our season that we were a pretty good team. I thought that playing against Seattle at the last home game we played really well. We moved the ball around well, we possessed the ball, we had some great plays, and we finished off the season with a win. We probably need another guy up top to help put the ball in the back of the net. I’m sure defending and whatnot, but that’s why I’m a player. I’m not a coach right now. So I don’t want to say anything because they might have different things in mind compared to me.
TSG: Tim Leiweke has said that he does want the team to try to sign a Designated Player. What do you think that says about the current team and the organization?
Geoff: I think that’s really, really good to be honest. As long as it’s a player that is going to come in and work as hard as all of the other individuals and it’s not going to be kind of a thing that he’s just going to end his career and that’s kind of it. I’m pretty sure Dom won’t let that happen. He’ll recruit a player that is going to be still in his prime and still a player that can produce for us. I think everybody is excited about it because it will bring more fans in, especially if it is a South American guy. He’ll bring in some fans and we know that he can lead the team in a way with his experience or whatnot. So I think a lot of the guys are excited for it and are anxious. I think the team deserves it and we’re ready to get back on the winning ways.
TSG: Are there any specific players you think they should target for a DP?
Geoff: There are so many. There are so many. It all depends if you’re looking for a forward or a midfielder . . . I wouldn’t care as long as they’re someone good. A guy like Thierry Henry with his experience and Marquez coming in. I think if it was someone about their stature where they still have some years left and they still can produce. I don’t know. A guy like Ronaldinho. We know he can still ball at AC Milan. He’s still playing at a high level over there. He could come in and do some things here. Or Pavel Nedved. I think he was a great player to watch growing up and I think he is still a baller as well. I would like to see someone come out of retirement like Zidane, especially with that guy. He would be amazing for our team. He makes everyone else around him better. We should call an all-star guy out of retirement to come play for us.
TSG: What are going to be your plans for this offseason?
Geoff: Right now I’m just kind of hanging out in Houston, still working out. Still trying to maintain my fitness as best I can. Still continue to strengthen up my knee, my leg, and whatnot. Probably travel back and forth between here and Boston, for Christmas and Thanksgiving. Other than that it’s just kind of getting ready for preseason next year. That’s the thing of trying to stay fit, stay healthy, and all that kind of stuff.
TSG: Have you had any contact with Bob Bradley yet this offseason?
Geoff: No I haven’t.
TSG: Are you looking forward to hopefully being in the January camp with the national team again?
Geoff: Yeah, I think so. I think I would like to get another opportunity. To be honest I’m just focusing on being in rehab and getting back for preseason. I’m just kind of taking it one day at a time because I’m not sure if I’ll be called in, especially only playing half of a season. I’m sure that there are a lot of guys that they’ll be looking at and whatnot. We’ll see. I’m not stressing over it, I’m not focusing on it. Hopefully if I do get a call up I’ll be ready and I’ll be fit. Who knows?
TSG: How was your experience in last year’s camp?
Geoff: I thought the first camp I didn’t do well. I played a position I wasn’t really, really comfortable at. I don’t think I ever got settled in and whatnot. I think the second camp I seemed to be more relaxed and more comfortable.
So it’s just weird because a lot of those guys have played together and you’re trying to break into the squad and trying to break into the groups of guys that you play with. A lot of those guys have been playing with one another for a long, long time. So they know each other and they’re all pretty good friends. I think that’s one of the hardest things is to break through that and to play well and be comfortable.
TSG: You brought up getting settled into a position. A lot of the debate when it comes to talking about you and the National Team is not whether you should be there, but where you should play. Where do you weigh in when it comes your favorite position and where do you think your best position is?
Geoff: I like centerback. I like playing centerback. I think Chad Marshall and I played along with each other in the All-Star Game last year and I thought we did pretty well. I think we both kind of have different styles of play, but he’s a pretty cool guy and I think we get along on the field pretty well. I like pairing up with him and I like pairing up with anybody at centerback. Just because I’m more comfortable and confident there, because I haven’t had an opportunity to play center mid and whatnot. I think there’s so many guys that are playing center mid with the National Team that stuff like that would be really, really hard for me to break in there. I’m willing to try anything, but I think center mid, outside mid, or centerback are where I’m probably comfortable at.
TSG: Alright, well the 2010 US World Cup team had the fewest ever players in MLS. Do you see yourself staying in the league for a while or would you like to play in Europe?
Geoff: I’ve always wanted to play in Europe and I know I have opportunities to go over there. Right now I’m kind of weighing my options, with the option of re-signing with the Dynamo or playing out my contract and going overseas. So right now we’re in contract re-negotiations. I do like Dom Kinnear. I love playing for him. I think he is a great coach to play for. Obviously I’m definitely taking in consideration . . . everything. We’ll see. It has to be the right situation for myself. It has to be a good opportunity for me to stay here as well. I’m definitely contemplating on whether to re-sign or not.
TSG: Do you still keep in touch with Stuart Holden and Ricardo Clark?
Geoff: I’ve tried to contact Rico here and there, but he’s out in Germany and it is hard get a hold of him. I’ve talked to Stu a couple of times, and that’s about it. He’s doing his thing and whatnot. He’s busy and all that, but I wish him nothing but the best. He’s done very, very well with Bolton and the U.S. National Team showing that he is a great player. He’s doing very well for himself and I think everybody knew he was going to do well when he left the Dynamo.
TSG: Have either one of them shared anything with you about their experiences playing overseas?
Geoff: Not yet. I haven’t really gotten the chance to talk to them, sit down, and ask them those kinds of questions. I’m sure eventually I will and ask them some advice through just some contract re-negotiation stuff, what they think, and all that kind of stuff. I’m sure it’s been great for them, but I’m sure its been hard for Rico especially coming from a team that he started for, played every single minute to a team he’s having trouble breaking through. Knowing Rico we all know he is a really, really good player. It’s got to be frustrating for him and that’s something that I don’t want to encounter. Where if I were going to Europe, I don’t want to be sitting on the bench and trying to get on the first team. That’s another thing to think about, you know.
TSG: Alright, well you know the MLS playoffs are going on right now. Would you care to weigh in a bit?
(Note, this interview was taped prior to the end of the 1st round of the MLS playoffs)
Geoff: To me it’s frustrating to watch the MLS playoffs because we’re not there obviously. I like Salt Lake. I think its going to be a good game, this upcoming game against Dallas in Salt Lake. See how they do in the second leg. I also like Seattle as well. I think they’re a really good team. I think they were very unlucky against LA in Seattle. Definitely looking forward to those two games. That’s pretty much it.
TSG: Who are you picking to go to the MLS Cup final?
Geoff: I would like to pick Seattle and Salt Lake.
(pause) TSG: They’re on the same side.
Geoff: Are they? See you know better than I do. Let’s see. Who is on the other side? Columbus and Colorado, right?
TSG: And New York and San Jose.
Geoff: Yeah, I would say New York.
I know the league would love the LA/New York final, just because it would help out with TV ratings and all that kind of stuff. I can see that most likely happening. I’m sure that will happen, but there’s always a chance for an underdog, like Seattle . . . or Salt Lake, but Salt Lake is really not an underdog because they proved that they were a very, very good team this year.
TSG: Thanks Geoff. We always do like to kind of end on a light note. So we’ll just ask you a few more questions.
So you’re going to a Houston rockets game, what teammate do you want to take with you?
Geoff: Probably Corey Ashe. He’s my roommate, my best friend on the team. I think it would be hilarious if got him to stand next to Yao Ming to see how much bigger he is compared to Corey.
TSG: What about the Houston Texans?
Geoff: Tyler Deric, just because he’s a Texans fan so I would be wearing my Patriots jersey there.
TSG: Well thanks for sharing your time with us today. Is there anything else you might want to add at the end?
Geoff: No, man. It was a pleasure talking with you. I look forward to reading this later and whatnot and checking it out.
TSG: Thanks Geoff.
Geoff: Take it easy, bro.