After a difficult showing against Portugal, the Stoke City defender has to get his head right to face the Group G favoriteSAO PAULO — If it only had been the one, well, the one error Geoff Cameron made against Portugal kind of set the bar for what an acceptable performance for the United States national team would be in its second World Cup group game. It was a dreadful mistake, but the sort of thing that can happen in any sporting contest. And the U.S. eventually cleared that bar.
If it was just the one.
Where is Cameron’s head now, though, given that his total of brutal blunders doubled just a half-minute before the match referee was due to blow the final whistle and release the Americans into the glory of the World Cup knockout stages?
It wasn’t on the end of Cristiano Ronaldo’s inch-perfect cross, which Silvestre Varela headed past helpless goalkeeper Tim Howard for a 2-2 draw that will force the U.S. to do some serious business in Thursday’s final group stage game.
PHOTOS: USA vs. Portugal | U.S. fan reactions | Beautiful people in Brazil
It certainly wasn’t properly placed in the game at that point against Portugal. With so little time remaining, the U.S. defensive corps should not have been maintaining such a high line as it attempted to protect its one-goal lead. The very point of sending in defender Omar Gonzalez was to deal with balls crossed or sent long into the box, and yet when Ronaldo released his pass the Americans were having to charge into the area to deal with it. Or, as it turned out, to not.
|U.S. SOCCER LATEST
“It’s an unbelievable ball by him,” defender Matt Besler said after the game. “He puts it in a spot where it is extremely difficult for me and Geoff to get to, but it’s also extremely difficult for Tim to come out on.
“Obviously, looking back, if you know he’s going to play it in that spot, you want to be able to be there and defend it. That’s our job to be there and defend it. But at the same time, he gets the ball out wide, finally one-on-one against somebody. Beasley does a great job getting up close to him, but not close enough where he can just take a touch around him. He decides to take a touch and whip a ball into an extremely dangerous spot where there’s not a whole lot you can do. It’s a tough one to swallow, but that’s why he’s Cristiano.”
The question at this point, though, is not why the U.S. made the tactical decisions it did in the final seconds or who most was at fault for that tying goal. What is most important is ascertaining why Cameron seemed a bit uncomfortable following his massive performance in the opener against Ghana — and whether that unsteadiness and the dark memories of his two errors will impact his efforts in containing Germany’s stellar attack.
Monday afternoon, the U.S. quietly got back to training in Sao Paulo, with temperatures in the low 70s and a blissful absence of humidity. There was no scheduled discussions with the media, just a chance for the players to put Portugal behind them, the better and the worse, and transact the too-short business of preparing for Germany.
The Americans face a quick turnaround in advance of Thursday’s game. Germany played its second group game Saturday and thus drew an extra day of rest. The U.S. chose to depart Manaus and return south to Sao Paulo following the Portugal draw instead of flying directly to Recife and cutting the number of plane trips by one. U.S. Soccer felt it was important for the team to have a home base, a sense of normalcy, between games.
An acquaintance who’s an American soccer coach said his approach to dealing with Cameron would be to call him into a private film session, show him where the errors developed and offer a simple “You’re better than that.” This serves as both a challenge to do more and a reinforcement that he is capable of meeting the standard.
“These finishes are very emotional for all of us, for the fans for the players, for the bench and that is what a World Cup is all about,” U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said. “You live through those emotions positively and negatively. You just kind of cross it off then and move on.