It’s a dream come true for a young center back, particularly one that has wanted to play for a Premier League club. Competing at the highest level of soccer. Right now, New York Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga is on the cusp. The young American is about to make his dreams come true by accepting a move to Chelsea.
But who is Matt Miazga? And how did he become a target for such a renowned club? As many supporters of the US men’s national team and Major League Soccer know, the 20-year-old is a talented player from Clifton, New Jersey, one born to Polish parents. Miazga even made one appearance for Poland’s under-18 team, in 2012.
At one point, Miazga was about to go play college soccer and had signed a letter of intent to join the University of Michigan. That’s when the Red Bulls came calling. They wanted him for their academy. Forgoing that letter of intent, Miazga decided to stay home and join his hometown club, signing with the Red Bulls as a Homegrown Player on May 30, 2013.
Miazga established himself as a superstar within New York’s academy, showing promise throughout 2013. Come the end of that year’s MLS season, Miazga was able to make his professional debut, coming on as a substitute in New York’s 4-1 rout of Houston on Sept. 8. He remained with the team’s reserve league side, though, playing nine times of the 12 games on the schedule.
Two months into the 2014 season, as the club endured a short slump under head coach Mike Petke, Miazga was given his first real chance, starting during the Red Bulls’ June 8 trip to New England. Playing the full 90 minutes, Miazga was involved in the team’s first win at Gillette stadium in over a decade. He’d go on to start six of the next seven matches, playing 500 minutes and assisting on Bradley Wright-Phillip’s goal against Toronto on June 27.
Then the breakout happened. Though former Marseille defender Ronald Zubar had been brought in to partner Damien Perrinelle in central defense, a pulled muscle in Zubar’s right leg prevented that partnership from taking hold. In the Guadeloupe international’s place, Miazga grew up in front of our eyes. Stopping high-powered attackers like New York City FC’s David Villa, the youth international showed why many see him as a future mainstay for his senior national team.
Miazga finally earned his first professional goal at Yankee Stadium when the Red Bulls traveled across the Hudson River to face NYCFC. After going into halftime down a goal, the Red Bulls scored three unanswered. For the last goal, within the final 10 minutes of regulation, Miazga headed a cross inside the near post, past Josh Saunders, and took a home run swing to celebrate at the hallowed baseball ground.
Miazga also played very well as a member of the US team that went to New Zealand for the U-20 World Cup. Sadly, that team lost in a long penalty shootout to eventual champions Serbia in the quarterfinals. Later in 2015, though, Miazga earned his first cap with the senior national team, appearing in the US’s 6-1, World Cup qualifying rout of St. Vincent & the Grenadines on Nov. 13.
Miazga is a good kid who quickly improved his play within a year and a half, transitioning from allowing easy goals and arguing with referees to a solid marking center back. He had plenty of confidence from head coach Jesse Marsch in 2015 and showed why he is such a talent for the Untied States.
After rumors he wanted to move to Europe right away, it looks like he will be making his next stop at Chelsea in the Premier League. For those unsure why Chelsea would be interested, there are more rumors, that Montreal forward Didier Drogba contacted his former club and told them to get the young American center back as soon as possible.
I was at Red Bull Arena for a training session last season before the first match in MLS’s all-NYC rivalry. As the city’s soccer media conducted their interviews, I saw a man in a white polo shirt that couldn’t stop smiling at Miazga. I went over to him and asked him if he knew the young defender. He nodded yes and said, “Uncle.” I shook his hand, since it seemed he barely spoke English.
I told him good for you, and he was able to say thank you. That’s how happy the Miazga family is for their son, who has risen fast enough to make this big move across the Atlantic.
Personally, the only hope I have for Miazga is that he truly gets his minutes, so Jurgen Klinsmann doesn’t lose another prospect for a national team that needs an injection of youth.