Geoff Cameron has been all over the world lately, but has arrived in Mexico ready to join the U.S. team and take a win.
The 27-year-old defender was in Bavaria on Friday night, where he made his first appearance for Stoke following his transfer from Major League Soccer's Houston Dynamo. He headed back to England with his new club, then flew to Amsterdam to catch an overnight flight to Mexico City, where he joined up with the U.S. national team on Sunday.
"It's been one of my dreams since I was a younger kid. I grew up watching the English Premier League and I said one day I want to be playing in England," Cameron said Tuesday. "Everything has kind of worked out."
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann, preparing for a pair of World Cup qualifiers against Jamaica next month, included Cameron on his 22-man roster for Wednesday night's exhibition against El Tri at Mexico City's Azteca Stadium. The Americans are 0-23-1 against El Tri in Mexico, including 0-19-1 in the thin air at altitude in Mexico City.
"We have to go in and prove ourselves," Cameron said.
Cameron played his last match for the Dynamo on July 15 and joined up with Stoke in Florida during its preseason U.S. tour. But waiting for paperwork to be completed and for his British work permit to be approved, he couldn't play. He finally got on the field for Friday's game at Greuther Fuerth, which is preparing for its first season in the German Bundesliga.
After starting the game in central midfield, Cameron finished in his more familiar central defense role.
"He's on a very positive path," Klinsmann said. "It's been a little bit of an emotional roller-coaster for him, but it's finally done. ... On Wednesday, he just has to settle in as fast as possible and keep his nerves under control while 100,000 Mexicans make some noise."
Klinsmann, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and Tim Howard were among those who wrote letters for Cameron to the UK Border Agency, whose work permit rules require that a player appear in at least 75 percent of his national team's competitive matches during the previous two years.
Cameron made his national debut in February 2010 but just one of his five appearances has been in a competitive game, a World Cup qualifier at Guatemala in June. He successfully argued the requirement should be waived became of a torn knee ligament that sidelined him for much of 2010.
"I've seen him play once, in an international, and he's got good qualities," Stoke manager Tony Pulis told The Sentinel, Stoke's evening newspaper. "I think Americans are well suited to the Premier League because they are honest and hardworking. You look at some of the players in the MLS and it might be a place teams in England look to now, instead of constantly looking in Europe to buy players. There is better value."
Founded in 1863, Stoke is the oldest Premier League club and is located about 35 miles south of Manchester. The Potters returned to the top division in 2008-09 for the first time since relegation in 1985 and have been criticized for their physical play under Pulis.
Cameron was surprised when he met new teammate Peter Crouch, a 6-foot-7 forward.
"I told him, 'I thought you were big on TV, but you're huge,'" Cameron recalled. "He just started laughing."
Howard, who plays for Everton in nearby Liverpool, showed Cameron around the area. While Cameron is living in a hotel, he hopes to get a place of his own in Cheshire. Excitement is building ahead of Stoke's season opener at Reading on Saturday.
But first is the game in Azetca. Mexico is coming off its surprising gold medal at the London Olympics, where it upset Brazil 2-1 in a match between under-23 teams with three overage players on each side. Mexico planned to honor the new champions at Wednesday's match.
Mexico's national team is 18th in the FIFA rankings, while the U.S. is 36th.
"There is a gap. It would be foolish not to recognize that," Klinsmann said. "If one team doesn't qualify for the Olympics and the other team wins the Olympics, there is a gap."
Based on reporting by the Associated Press.