ISAAC HEATH - Friday, July 31, 2009
Ljungskile is quickly becoming the Fulham of Swedish professional soccer after Ryan Miller became the fourth American player to sign with the second division team, joining Etchu Tabe, Sam Brill, and Colin Burns earlier this month.
With Miller, Brill, and Tabe being defenders and Burns playing goal, Ljungskile's line of defense could potentially become almost entirely American. This is just another example of the effect of an ever-growing influx of young American talent being shipped over to Sweden, with Miller being the latest addition.
Miller began his professional career with DC United, but ultimately did not make a splash with the team, receiving only a few appearances in the CONCACAF Champions League.
"I was with DC for preseason and the early part of the season," Miller told YA. "Then they let me go and I have been training with Chicago for the last three months in preparation for Sweden."
"I came over in January to be fit for preseason and to take a look and see how things were here."
During his January trip to Sweden, Miller almost landed a spot in the first division. While unfortunate to not get a chance in the top flight, word of Miller's ability spread through Sweden and he received an offer by the end of June.
"Halmstads BK was interested in me but they needed a left back and I am a right back," Miller relayed. "Because I impressed them, I got a reputation as a good player and Halmstads contacted Ljungskile."
While gelling with a new group of players can be tough, adapting to a different style of play will be his greatest challenge. Miller is a defender who often looks to get forward therefore he knows he will have to change his game to fit into Ljungskile's style of play.
Though he admittedly notes the changes he will need to make, Miller feels his game is still well suited for success in Sweden.
"I think the most important thing is to become more familiar with my teammates and develop better communication," the American opined. "I am very offensive minded, [but] our team plays very direct so I need to focus on playing accurate long balls to our strikers who are fast and work very hard."
"The league is very fitting for offensive backs and I think I fit well, especially being fast."
Though not considered one of the major European leagues, Sweden has proven to be a great stepping stone for young professional soccer players. The league has boasted home grown talent such as Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Frederick Ljungberg and Henrik Larsson.
The leagues history of developing quality players, paired with the recent success of Charlie Davies at Hammarby and with the US National team, suggests that this developmental trend will likely continue. And like other American players that have recently been moving to Sweden, Miller views the league as extremely beneficial for the developing player.
"It is a good level," says Miller. "It's much more direct than MLS, but a great place to develop players."
"In MLS the average age of certain teams is what I would consider very old but here they really like developing young players and bringing players from their youth system."
There is no doubt that Miller hopes the trends of player development in Sweden apply to his situation as well.
With a contract that only runs through the end of this season, Miller hopes to improve upon the good reputation he has already in order to receive a new contract with Ljungskile or another Swedish team by the end of the season.