Stoke City and U.S. men’s national team defender Geoff Cameron blasted former USMNT manager Bruce Arena in an interview with the New York Times published Wednesday.
“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 told reporter Marc Stein after Stoke’s game against Newcastle on New Year’s Day.
“Bruce Arena made decisions that cost us going to the World Cup,” he added. “And I don’t have a problem saying it because we had the right group of guys.”
One of Arena’s major decisions was choosing to start Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler over Cameron in the fateful qualifying match against Trinidad & Tobago in October. Cameron contends that Arena told him before the final pair of qualifiers that he’d be on the bench because Arena believed he wasn’t fit enough to start.
Cameron conceded to the Times that he had defensive lapses in the loss to Costa Rica a month earlier and that he would have been fine with Arena removing him from the starting lineup if the manager believed his play was sub-par.
“But if you tell me I’m not fit enough, that’s like an insult to me as a professional,” Cameron told the paper.
In response, Arena cited the U.S.’s poor record (1–3–1) in games started by Cameron.
“I don’t think 2017 was that impressive of a performance for the player,” Arena told the Times. “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.”
Cameron has been a fixture in defense both for the national team and at Stoke, at least when healthy. He, DeAndre Yedlin and Danny Williams are the only Americans who regularly feature for Premier League clubs. (Yedlin started the Trinidad game, while Williams wasn’t even on the roster.)
At 32, Cameron should have a chance to qualify for another World Cup, though, assuming the new U.S. manager has more confidence in him than Arena.