In 2020, MLS made its return to a COVID-cautious world with an aptly named tournament: MLS is Back. Like the NBA’s “bubble” in the same year, this tournament was the league’s attempt to safely move forward, bringing soccer back to a nation stuck at home.
For many people, lockdown was a time of heightened uncertainty and anxiety. For Cameron Dunbar, it was an opportunity to announce himself on one of the strangest stages in soccer history.
At just 18 years old, Dunbar made his first-team debut for the LA Galaxy against Portland in the MLS is Back tournament. Like any soccer-crazy teenager would be, he was mesmerized by the competition. “It was a crazy experience, especially having just joined the first team and being thrown into that,” he said. “Seeing some of the players I had watched on TV all in the same hotel was crazy.”
With the league’s biggest stars all gathered in one place, Dunbar felt like just another fan. “I remember I saw Thierry Henry and it was just crazy,” he said. “I was too shy to go talk to him, but it was really cool.”
Since then, the young forward has seen his career begin to take shape. He earned a total of 18 appearances for the Galaxy, as well as 33 appearances for LA Galaxy II. He found the back of the net 15 times in MLS NEXT Pro, turning heads along the way.
Comfortable on both wings and at the 10 spot, Dunbar’s priority on the field is to simply get involved as much as possible.
“Wherever I feel like I can be involved in the game, make plays, get on the ball and face forward at the backline is where I’m happy,” he said. “Just finding those gaps between the midfield and backline is enjoyable for a player like myself. I can turn, see space and take it. On the wing, it’s a bit of the same — just a wider area and less defenders. After I beat the wide defender, I can just work my way into the box and try to make something happen.”
Between his natural ability to read the game, explosive speed, and lethal finishing ability, Dunbar is primed for an exciting career ahead of him.
His transfer to Minnesota marks his first time moving outside of Southern California, leaving his family and friends nearly 2,000 miles away. For someone as close to their family as Dunbar is, the transition has been a difficult one. Before leaving the sunshine, he made the most of his dwindling time in California.
“Just before I left for Minnesota, my family planned a trip to Disneyland,” he said. “That was fun, spending one of my last days in California with my family and having a good time at an amusement park. I knew I wasn’t going to be home for a while after going all the way out to Minneapolis. Spending time with my brothers, hanging out with them was really nice.”
While he was growing up in San Diego, Dunbar fondly recalls playing soccer with his two younger brothers. Beyond that, the three boys also enjoyed going to the movies together, especially to catch the latest horror films or Marvel flicks. While soccer is the one that ultimately stuck, he played basketball, baseball, and a bit of American football with friends during his childhood.
Coming of age in the shadow of Hollywood also helped him develop a love for acting and a desire to do more than watch movies. “If I wasn’t a soccer player, I would definitely want to be an actor,” he said. “I liked acting a lot when I was a kid; I used to take drama classes. That’s probably the career I would have chosen.”
After growing up mostly in San Diego, Dunbar swapped Ron Burgundy’s stomping grounds for the City of Angels — the city of his birth — in 2017. He joined the Galaxy’s academy system at the age of 14, initially living with his grandma while his family remained in San Diego a bit longer.
When July 15 and October 7 come around, he’s looking forward to reconnecting with his family while the Loons visit LA for matches against LAFC and the Galaxy, respectively.
While talking to Cameron, it is clear that he’s one of us: just a kid with a dream, doing whatever it takes to make it happen. Moving far from home isn’t easy, but taking the next step toward your goals is supposed to be uncomfortable. Not only does he love this game; he appreciates the opportunity to make it such a big part of his life.
“The best part of the job is waking up and getting to step on the field every day,” he said. “That’s my favorite thing to do, play soccer. Every morning I wake up, and I don’t want to do anything else.”
Loons fans should be excited to watch Dunbar live out his professional soccer dream at Allianz Field this year. This kid has both heart and skill in abundance, and he’s certainly going to play an exciting role in whatever this season brings for MNUFC. The Golden State has given us a good one.