Finally back in form, Campbell getting familiar with new teammates at CF Montreal
MONTREAL — It’s been a long time coming, but defender George Campbell is starting to settle in with CF Montreal.
Acquired in December from Atlanta United, the six-foot-two, 185-pound centre back quickly signed a three-year contract with Montreal, but his anticipated debut was delayed by a pre-season ankle injury. Months later, he’s finally getting some run in the starting lineup.
Campbell, a 21-year-old from Chester, Pa., says he’s happy to be back with the team full-time.
“I feel good," said Campbell on Thursday from CF Montreal’s training facility. "In terms of being in the locker room, not in rehab anymore, with the team I feel much more part of it and much more close with the guys. Then on the field, I think I just have a little more understanding of how the guys play and how we train as well.
"I feel like I really know the guys and, you know, it's a good group."
Campbell earned his first start in Tuesday’s Canadian Championship win against Toronto FC after coming on as a substitute for short stints in four previous matches, including nine total minutes in three Major League Soccer games.
With fellow defender Joel Waterman suspended due to yellow card accumulation, Campbell could be in for a second consecutive start on Saturday night, as Montreal hosts Toronto in a Canadian Classique derby rematch at Stade Saputo.
Despite the rapid increase in his minutes and the fact Montreal has games in such quick succession, Campbell says he feels ready to play should the opportunity come his way on Saturday.
“I think I've been putting in the work in training enough and I felt good in the game (on Tuesday),” said Campbell, who played 36 games for Atlanta United over the last three seasons. “I think I’ll be ready.”
Head coach Hernan Losada wouldn’t reveal his lineup plans for the back three defenders, saying it’ll all depend on how players recuperate in the next 24 hours.
"I’m happy with George’s match on Tuesday. He worked really hard to come back from his injury,” said Losada. "But with all the games in the next weeks, I think everyone is going to get minutes so it’s important for everyone to stay fit, stay concentrated and stay available."
Even with Kamal Miller gone, CF Montreal has a lot of options in central defence as players come back from injury — Rudy Camacho, Gabriele Corbo, Aaron Herrera, Robert Thorkelsson and Waterman are all players who can occupy the same spots as Campbell.
But Campbell says that’s a positive, not a negative, over a long MLS season.
"I think it’s helping, and I think having more players in the squad is going to help us get through the whole season," he said. "I mean, we’ve had a good run of games. So I think players coming back is a good thing."
Losada has deployed Campbell on the left side of his back three, something the right-footed defender says he’s comfortable doing if that’s what the team needs.
"I've played in the middle, or the right, or the left for a few years now and like all of them,” he said. “It's just a matter of where the team needs me and where the coach wants me … I'm comfortable enough now with both my feet in and in my teammates."
This report by The Canadian Press was first published May 11, 2023.