Geoff Cameron's career arch took him far beyond Major League Soccer. The league and his first club in it, Houston Dynamo FC, were integral to his eventual successes.
Cameron called Dynamo FC home for parts of five seasons from 2008 to 2012 prior to playing overseas.
For the first time since departing to play abroad, Cameron is set to return to Houston and play against his former club on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET) as an FC Cincinnati player.
Nearly a decade elapsed since Cameron last played for Houston. He enjoyed some of the biggest moments of his career in the intervening period. Now, Cameron's returning as one of the most accomplished American players of his generation.
"It's been a pretty cool journey," Cameron said. "Houston was a stepping stone. It's a special place in my heart, for sure. It'd be nice to go back there and play well in the stadium again, and play in front of some old, loyal fans."
At Houston, Cameron made 116 appearances, scored 11 goals, tallied five assists and ultimately departed the club as a decorated, Best XI-caliber talent.
That foundation helped launch Cameron to greater heights.
In 2012, Cameron moved to Stoke City of the English Premier League where he was a mainstay for the club over six seasons, making 186 appearances and 166 starts. His ride in the English game continued at Queens Parks Rangers of the second-division Championship, where he also featured regularly.
Along the way, Cameron was part of the most recent U.S. men's national team to qualify for a FIFA World Cup, joining the "USMNT" for the 2014 edition of the tournament in Brazil. He also started every match for his country during the 2016 edition of the Copa America, which saw the Americans advance to the semifinal round of the competition.
Cameron completed his move to FC Cincinnati three matches into the 2021 MLS season. The deal went final May 13 and he made his debut for the club in the May 16 TQL Stadium opener against Inter Miami CF.
Cameron's impact on his new club has been immediate.
After FC Cincinnati conceded 10 goals in the first three games of 2021, only seven have passed through FCC's net in the last six games.
FCC conceded just twice over three matches last week with its two most recent games being the club's first shutouts of 2021.
Cameron, who has played alongside fellow center back and recent Cincinnati acquisition Gustavo Vallecilla, has added a grit and stinginess that was lacking along FC Cincinnati's back line.
There were other meaningful stops during the formative days of Cameron's career but much of his professional success traces back to the Dynamo.
"Everything has changed dramatically since I left," Cameron said. "I come back and you look at here (Mercy Health Training Center). This is state-of-the-art, compares with everything else in Europe... From growing up and where I came from, and having to get selected to the MLS (SuperDraft) and having to go down to whatever team, you're not guaranteed a contract and all of the sudden, I got selected by (former Houston head coach) Dom Kinnear, all of the sudden I am fighting for a senior developmental spot or a developmental roster and then obviously the rest is history."
Houston was transitioning as an MLS franchise during Cameron's stay there, upgrading from tenant status at a since-demolished stadium on the University of Houston campus to BBVA Stadium, a soccer-specific venue situated in Houston's downtown.
The club also lacked permanent training facilities during Cameron's tenure but Dynamo FC's practice accommodations have been upgraded.
Plenty about Dynamo FC continues to change.
The club was purchased in June by Ted Segal, the founder and president of real estate development and financing company EJS Group. The purchase, which included the Houston Dash National Women's Soccer League (NWSL) franchise, was reportedly completed for around $400 million.
The club, known as "Houston Dynamo" while Cameron played there, undertook a rebrand and the launch of a new visual identity, which was launched in November 2020.
These changes saw Houston introduce a new crest and the "FC" moniker.
Cameron took stock of the growth and change at Dynamo FC during his Thursday remarks.
He'll see the net effect of all the changes in-person for the first time on Saturday, but he already knows his former club has improved and advanced since he left.
"I think I was able to spend a year or two in the new stadium, BBVA (Stadium)," Cameron said. "It's definitely seen the progress and they're always evolving. I know that they've done more things with their gym and their training ground and I remember going from Robertson Stadium to the training ground, driving all the way down because we didn't have a building yet. I think we were out of some trailers and there's progress there. Now they have a system. They have structure in everything to be successful."