KENYA BROWN - Tuesday, March 7, 2017
US defender Matt Miazga hopes to contribute to Chelsea's legacy, but right now he is looking to develop his game in the Dutch Eredivisie with Vitesse during his loan spell with the team.
When the New Jersey-born center back was signed by the English Premier League team in January 2016 many people were surprised and questioned whether he would be able to earn his way into a team that has had many well-known defenders such as John Terry, Marcel Desailly, Frank LeBouf and Gary Cahill. He was fortunate to appear in two games in the latter half of last season to get acclimated to the league.
However, this season would be different as newly appointed head coach Antonio Conte looked to have more experience in his three-man back line, leaving Miazga to search for a team in order to continue his development. After months of speculation as to where he would be going, Vitesse came in to take the prospect on a season-long loan.
Trading in the bright lights of London for a more quiet environment in Arnhem can be a big change, but Miazga told Yanks Abroad that he has adjusted quite well to the city and the team.
"The adjustment has been pretty fine, pretty seamless. I'm kind of used to Europe. My parents are from Europe so I know the European culture and mentality and all that. Playing football in the Netherlands has been good. You learn new playing styles, different philosophies. It's been good for me and I want to continue working hard and keep developing," he said.
The former New York Red Bull player's search for a team to play with ahead of the start of the season was a nerve wrecking one as Chelsea finalized the transfer of Brazilian David Luiz from Paris Saint Germain.
There were rumors about him heading to Germany, with Eintracht Frankfurt being the team most widely talked about as his destination. Then came further talk of a move to Spain with La Liga team Espanyol. It looked like the loan would go through, but an issue with the paperwork saw that loan scuttled. However, Vitesse would come in at the last minute and Miazga would finally find a team that would allow him to continue his development.
When news came out that Miazga would be heading to the Netherlands to play for the season some critics called it a bad idea as they believe the Eredivisie is a league that is geared towards developing attacking players. However, the US national team prospect chooses to ignore the critics as he has a great deal of respect for the Dutch league
"I really don't look at what the critics say and what newspapers say because most of it, it is what it is," said Miazga. "But for me, it doesn't really matter. I know the Dutch league is good. The Eredivisie is a top league and known for developing a lot of young players in general. So for me, it was good to get this experience here in Holland. They play a lot of technical football, which is good for me. In the Premier League, it is very physical and very direct as well. Here is more about your playing, so you get that aspect of your game as well."
"I think playing in general in Holland in a good league like the Eredivisie is good for me. Good for my development as a player. And I know I want to continue and work hard. And here like I said, in Holland is new ideas, different philosophies, different tactics here. So like I said a different country and you can always learn something new in terms of football."
It took some time for Miazga to get adjusted to soccer in Holland, but his hard work in training has paid off as he has played a part in the team's campaign this season, appearing in 15 games in all competitions so far and scoring his first goal in the team's 4-0 win over Jordan Boys in the Dutch Cup on Dec. 14, 2016. The team have recently booked their place into the final of the competition, which could give Miazga his first piece of silverware in Europe.
As he becomes a regular in the team, Miazga has now become forever etched into the Vitesse's history. This has led to him getting his name engraved onto what is known as the "Wall of Heroes." It is an honor that he greatly appreciates and he hopes that it can lead to other American soccer players looking to Holland as an option to building their careers.
"As the first American to play for a club is always something special," he said. "And I think it is good, so hopefully it paves the way for other players to come to Holland and continue their progression and their careers, because I think Holland is a good step and a good place. A good platform to develop for young players in general. It is a top league for American players to come here and improve themselves."
One of the keys to the 21-year-old's development has been getting expert coaching and advice from someone who has played in his position. That is where Vitesse head coach Henk Fraser has come in. According to Miazga, it is coaches such as Fraser and few others on the staff that has helped him to improve certain aspects of his game.
"He was a top defender back in the days as well so. We also have in the coaching staff Edward Sturing and Andy Myers who have been top defenders as well. They have a good point of view. Good coaches from a defensive standpoint. They have played in the top level for many years. And you could always rely on good advice. Good coaching from them to continuing my development and other players' development."
As for life Arnhem, it is definitely different from what Miazga's has experienced in London. There may not be much a young guy can get into in the city located in the eastern part of the Netherlands, but all the defender focuses on now is improving his game and helping Vitesse finish in a strong position in the league and claim the Dutch Cup.
"Obviously Arnhem is a bit smaller and London is a massive city. For me, it normally is the same type of day. You wake up, you train for most of the day, you get home, kind of in the early afternoon/mid-afternoon. And from there, for the most of the time you are tired. You have to be professional. You have to rest up, relax and get ready for the next day. Sometimes you talk to friends on the phone, you watch a couple of movies, watch tapes from games and trying to get better. Then you eat and go to sleep and getting ready for the next day," said Miazga.
When talking about the US national team, Miazga remains realistic about his chances of getting a call up, but he stands ready to come in and play for the team whenever there is a need.
"For me, obviously, the ultimate honor is to play for your national team. I think everyone loves to play for the national team. I had the opportunity a few times for the first team and many times for the youth, so as a young player here playing now in Europe I want to continue to develop and make my way into the national team more consistently and give my all for the US," he said.
"Like I said, I just control what I can control. Work hard here in my club. If the manager wants to call me up, I always will be ready and always giving my all and that the ultimate goal. Obviously, it is to qualify for the 2018 World Cup."