USMNT: US U-20 international disappoints in Celtic debut

Cameron Harper, USMNT (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images)
Cameron Harper, USMNT (Photo by Ian MacNicol/Getty Images) /

US U-20 international Cameron Harper debuted for a depleted Celtic in their 1-1 draw with Hibernian on Monday

Cameron Harper‘s unexpected Celtic debut came after a disastrous season got even worse after learning that 13 of their players were forced into quarantine. Harper joined the Celtic Academy in August of 2018 at the age of 16. Since then, Harper has featured for the Celtic U-18 and Celtic Reserves while representing the US at the U-16, U-17, and most recently playing for Tab Ramos and the US U-20 team.

Harper became the first American to make a competitive appearance for Celtic since Timothy Weah’s final appearance for the Hoops in a 3-0 win over Aberdeen in May of 2019. The Scottish giants spent their short winter break in Dubai to refresh for the remainder of the season.

What they didn’t expect was for one of their players to test positive upon returning. Celtic issued a statement once learning of Christopher Julien’s positive test results, forcing 13 players and two members of their coaching staff, including manager Neil Lennon, into quarantine.

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That meant quite a few changes for Celtic’s match against Hibernian. Among the changes was 19-year-old American youth international Cameron Harper. Harper got the start for the Hoops at forward and had some good opportunities, but failed to make the most of them.

The Sacramento, California native’s first opportunity came in the 25th minute when Mikey Johnston slid in a pass for Harper. He elected to take a shot from a narrow-angle that went into the side netting. That was probably Celtic’s best chance of the game, but he simply didn’t make the most of it.

Harper had another couple of chances to send a good delivery in the first half but failed on both occasions. Harper had one final chance to send in a cross in the second half but sent it out of play.

The teenager went down with a cramp and his debut came to an end after 60 minutes, replaced by Armstrong Oko-Flex. Celtic did end up finding the opener from a David Turnbull free kick in the 82nd minute. Hibernian found the stoppage-time equalizer from Kevin Nisbet as the match finished 1-1.

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It was good to see the US U-20 international as involved as he was, but his delivery and his decision making were very poor when his team needed it. Hopefully, it was just the nerves of playing your debut at Celtic Park for such a big club in such strange circumstances. The good news for Harper is that he may get another chance to redeem himself if he can find another spot in the team with the 13 players out with back-to-back matches against Livingston.