Brittany Cameron and Jill Loyden competed for playing time during much of Sky Blue FC’s season and earlier this week they were the rare goalkeeping teammates in the same national team camp. Cameron was getting her first opportunity of any kind, at any level of U.S. Soccer after a career season that began when Loyden broke her hand, opening up the first choice spot at Sky Blue. Loyden was there at the end of a frustrating season that included the broken hand and a benching for Sky Blue’s playoff loss at Western New York.
Cameron and Loyden are friends though. Really.
“Jill and I are actually really, really good friends,” Cameron said earlier this week from national team camp. “And we don’t just say that, we actually really are.”
A few minutes later, Cameron was asked about her 2013 season and immediately begins spouting off team accomplishments.
“I thought we did pretty good. We had some injuries late and that didn’t really help us at the end. But overall I thought we did the best we could and we gave it our best shot.”
Asked about her own season there is silence, and then Loyden takes the phone.
“I think I’ll answer this for Brittany because she’s being humble,” Loyden said. “I think she had an excellent season. She was one of the best players on the team and she kept us in so many games and afforded us the opportunity to actually make the playoffs. She had some big time saves all year long and she was a leader on and off the field. She really deserves this opportunity to be at camp.”
Cameron, who turned 27 earlier this week, is no newcomer to professional soccer. In fact she has played for some of the best club teams North America has ever produced. She just did it as a backup goalkeeper. Cameron was a backup on the regular season championship team all three WPS seasons and was part of two championship clubs. In 2012 she won another championship, this time as a starter with Western New York in WPSL Elite. Cameron parlayed that to Sky Blue where she was poised to be a backup again until Loyden broke her hand before the season began.
Cameron ran with the opportunity finishing 2nd in NWSL in both goals against average (0.95) and shutouts (8). Still the email from Sky Blue coach Jim Gabarra telling her to pack her bags for national team camp took her by surprise.
“To be honest I was taken by surprise. I didn’t have any idea about it.”
Cameron said being in camp with the other goalkeepers was a bit overwhelming at first, but only at first.
“It’s obviously a little bit intimidating when you walk on the field, but by the time you touch the first ball it’s something you’ve been doing the last 18 years. It’s nerve wracking, but as soon as you make your first mistake it’s back to a normal goalkeeping session.”
As for Loyden, her hand recovered—after surgery—and she made it back to the lineup. But things never seemed to go smoothly when Loyden played and eventually Cameron was selected to start the playoff game in Rochester. Gabarra said at the time that the club seemed to play better when Cameron was in goal.
“It’s definitely hard to hear,” Loyden acknowledged. “We played some pretty tough competition in the games that I played in and we were going through a little bit of a dip as a team. I don’t take it to heart I guess. It was just more timing. It’s something that I’m learning to take in stride.”
Cameron was eventually released from U.S. camp while Loyden was chosen as one of our goalkeepers slated to participate the rest of the way. It could be Cameron’s only crack at impressing the staff, or it could be the start of something at the position that tends to blossom later in terms of age than any other.
Both say that have not given much thought to what an expansion team could mean to their playing futures or about whether one would rather pursue an opportunity with more guaranteed playing time.
“I want what’s best for Brittany and what’s best for me,” Loyden said. “We’re such close friends. We fight every day in training. It’s only making each other better. It’s awesome.”
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