STOKE'S AMERICAN PROBLEM
Cameron is one of many Americans at Stoke
Stoke City will have four Americans starting January 1st when Juan Agudelo joins the Potters from New England.
Ordinarily, American soccer fans would cheer the fact that so many of our countrymen are playing Premier League soccer-the problem with Stoke is that only one American is actually seeing game time consistently.
Geoff Cameron was the only American to consistently feature under now departed Tony Pulis, while Maurice Edu was loaned to Bursaspor in Turkey last year after one appearance. Brek Shea was also signed from FC Dallas in January but spent time injured and on the bench during last season, only making two appearances for his new club.
Shea made his first appearance of this season on Wednesday in Stoke's 3-1 win over Walsall, playing well in the first half before being subbed off. Maurice Edu is still recovering from a sports hernia injury, which caused him to miss out on both the World Cup qualifiers and the Gold Cup earlier this summer.
Cameron seems to have cemented his starting role with new manager Mark Hughes after strong performances in World Cup qualifying earlier this summer. The Boston native has started in both of Stoke's Premier League matches this season at right back.
On Thursday, Jurgen Klinsmann released his roster for the September qualifying matches and again, only Cameron is featured. Edu's injury concern aside, Shea has been left off the roster after presumably not nailing down consistent playing time and still working his way back to full health. Shea was called into the Gold Cup roster and looked rusty after an injury layoff at the end of last season. He also missed some of Stoke's preseason camp, which might have hurt his chances at playing time.
With Agudelo's arrival at Stoke, the concern is that he'll be lost in a sea of experienced Premier league strikers. The Potters' roster includes Kenwyne Jones, Cameron Jerome, Jonathan Walters, and Peter Crouch.
As Klinsmann has clearly defined, playing time at the club level is essential to being called into the US team. Shea, Edu and soon Agudelo will need to fight for playing time to be considered in the mix for the World Cup next summer.
With the immergence of Fabian Johnson in his national left sided midfield role, Shea is either relegated to the bench or not on the team at all. Edu also faces an uphill battle considering the strength of the US team is the central midfield, anchored by Jermaine Jones and Michael Bradley. The immergence of Mix Diskerud and Brad Evans also hurt Edu's chances of making the World Cup roster. Even Sacha Kljestan, who typically starts for Anderlecht, a Champions League club, was left off the September roster, in favor of Real Salt Lake stalwart Kyle Beckerman.
Depth and competition for National Team spots is a good thing and further shows the progress of the American game. However, it also puts enormous pressure on American players to be with club teams where they can excel and play consistently. Shea, Edu and soon Agudelo are all facing that very issue this season with Stoke City. This season will be a crucial test for all American players going into next summer's World Cup in Brazil.