New England Soccer Today

New England’s Best in the Back

It wasn’t that long ago that Providence product Michael Parkhurst and Attleboro native Geoff Cameron were just two local talents hoping to play their way from the grassy fields of southeastern New England onto the big stage.

Cue the big stage.

On Saturday, the defending duo – both of whom played club soccer for Rhode Island-based Bayside FC – found themselves paired together in the center of the United States defense for the first time during the squad’s 1-0 shutout of Venezuela.

Although Ricardo Clark may have cast himself into the spotlight with his stoppage time strike, it was Parkhurst and Cameron who padlocked the area to keep La Vinotinto off the board. And that’s just as well. A quiet night is often indicative of a job well done in the defending department.

While both have proven themselves at league level, it was a diffrent set of circumstances for Parkhurst and Cameron entering Saturday’s friendly at University of Phoenix Stadium in Arizona.

For Cameron, who was previously called into National Team camp twice without earning his first cap, the game was an opportunity to finally showcase his talents. An opportunity to flaunt the physical, yet intelligent, form that earned him two MLS All-Star nods.

And in Parkhurst’s case, it was the chance to salvage what was once a bright future on the national team front that quickly darkened due to set of uncharacteristic performances leading up to the 2010 World Cup. After all, a poor string of games can happen to anyone, even undeniable talents like Parkhurst.

In his National Team debut, Cameron displayed the form that helped steer Houston to the MLS Cup final last year. Using the combination of muscle and vision that made him one of the best center backs in MLS, the former University of Rhode Island captain helped corral the Venezuelan attack, which failed to register a shot on goal all evening.

Another reason for Venezuela’s inability to capitalize? Parkhurst’s prescient positioning and cool demeanor in the face of danger. Shaking off a recent string of subpar performances with the Nats, the former Revolution defender showcased his uncanny anticipation by calmly clearing anything that came his way in the rear.

As a result of the duo’s efforts, Venezuela was forced to operate on the outside, as Cameron and Parkhurst effectively locked and chained up the front entrance. All in a day’s work for the tandem, who each went the full 90 on Saturday.

It is believed that the locally-grown center back pairing is the first occasion in which players from the same New England-based youth club have played together for the U.S. National Team.

Next up for the Nats is a Jan. 25 friendly against Panama, who challenged the U.S. defense in group play of last year’s CONCACAF Gold Cup tournament. Although Klinsmann wasn’t present for that performance, there’s no doubt he’ll look at the tape and ponder the possibility of putting Parkhurst and Cameron on his starting lineup once again come Wednesday.

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