When the U.S. men’s soccer team takes the field on Sunday in Bayamón, Puerto Rico, for its first pre-Copa America friendly, one important question will be the health of defender Geoff Cameron.
Cameron, who started three of the four World Cup matches for the U.S. in 2014 and just completed his fourth season with Stoke City of the English Premier League, left Stoke’s May 15 season finale after 80 minutes with a sore hamstring but hopes to be ready for next month’s Copa America.
“It’s getting better,” Cameron said Thursday of his hamstring, which limited his participation in this week’s national team training camp at Barry University. “It wasn’t a pulled muscle or anything, it was just a small, little tightness. It’s not right yet, but I’m not too far away from getting back out and training.”
Cameron said he’s being cautious in his recovery to limit the risk of re-injury, and he’s not sure if he’ll play Sunday in Puerto Rico.
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“I wish I was playing and training every single day,” Cameron said. “I don’t want to push myself and then do damage to [my hamstring], be out for longer and miss a chance of representing the team in Copa.”
Cameron appeared in 30 of Stoke City’s 38 Premier League matches this season. He missed six weeks in January and February with an ankle injury but returned to start Stoke’s final 12 Premier League matches.
The 22 players who trained at Barry arrived, like Cameron, after completing their club seasons in Europe and Mexico. Players from Major League Soccer who make America’s 23-man Copa roster will be released from their clubs to join the national team on Monday.
“I don’t think a lot of countries deal with the same situations that we deal with,” Cameron said of the different arrival times. “That’s what’s unique about the U.S. … We’ll have a couple of games to gel back together and get things going.”
The Americans will have to gel quickly, as they face a challenging draw at the Copa America Centenario, a special edition of the Copa featuring 10 teams from the South American Confederation and six from North, Central America and the Caribbean.
“We know we’re in a tough group,” Cameron said.
“We don’t want to exit the tournament early. … As long as we believe in one another and believe in our own ability, I think the sky’s the limit.”
Group A, which includes the U.S., Colombia, Costa Rica and Paraguay, is the only one of the tournament’s four groups to feature more than two FIFA top-40 teams.
In fact, all four Group A squads are ranked in the world’s top 40, including fourth-ranked Colombia, the first opponent for the U.S.
A tough group is nothing new for Cameron and his American teammates, as many pundits labeled the team’s 2014 World Cup pod as the tournament’s Group of Death.
“When people doubt us and question things,” Cameron said, “we always seem to stick together. When things get tough, you’ve got to have guys that step up and push one another … maybe I’m that guy.”
After Sunday’s match, the U.S. will play two friendlies with its full 23-man roster before opening the Copa America against Colombia on June 3 in Santa Clara, California.