Thursday, December 30, 2010
Next week's United States national team camp in Carson, California will be a dream come true for Ryan Miller who is still basking in the glow of his call-up to Bob Bradley's squad.
Miller will arrive in Carson on the heels of a solid 2010 season with Swedish club Halmstads BK where he was a regular starter on the club's back line.
Despite his solid season in the Allsvenskan, Miller said that he never expected to get the nod from Bradley and was astounded to learn the news.
"I was in a shock when I found out," Miller told YA. "I didn't have much of a response because I was so surprised. I wasn't expecting it. I actually found out from one of my ex-teammates' dad who works for US Soccer and had been trying to contact me. It's amazing. I couldn't be more excited."
The native of Barrington, Illinois added that while he is there in Carson, he plans to optimize his time in order to see what is expected for a player at a national team level and also to prepare himself for the 2011 season.
"I want to get a lot out of this experience," explained Miller. "I'm interested to see what the level of play is and what's expected. It's a great time for me to do the camp because it'll help me get fit and get some confidence before I start my season."
Even though it will be his first time training under Bradley, Miller feels that since he is one of the more seasoned players in camp, he will have a chance to provide some guidance for other first-time national team players.
"I want to be opportunistic and play confidently," noted the 26 year old. "Also since I'll be one of the older guys in camp, I think I can be one of the leaders of this team."
Miller's career started in MLS with the Columbus Crew where he played sparingly for one season. From there, it was on to DC United however only a week into the 2009 MLS season, Miller was released.
With his career stuck in neutral, an olive branch from abroad was extended by Ljungskile SK, a club in Sweden's second flight that has been the home to many an American player in recent years.
Miller points out that it was at Ljungskile where he was able to resuscitate his career and begin his path to this national team call-up.
"When I was in Columbus and DC I was always playing behind stronger and more veteran players so I was really giving it my last shot by going to play in Sweden," recalled Miller. "My agent, Eddie Rock, told me that worse case scenario I could go to Ljungskile and then after six months if I wanted I could go home and start something else. I went to Sweden and had an unbelievably good time and played well. I was picked up by Halmstad and I'm still having fun.
"It has been a really up-and-down two to three years. Making a national team was never in my sights so the fact that I'm now on one is a dream come true just like it is for any other American player."
The versatile defender played in 26 matches this past season for Halmstad, by far the most appearances he has had in a season as a professional. However when Miller reflects back on 2010 both at a club and personal level, he feels that Halmstad underachieved and that a nagging injury exerted a toll on his game.
"From a team perspective, it was a disappointing season because we were fighting relegation the whole time and there is so much unbelievable pressure that comes with that," he lamented. "When you're fighting relegation, you're always fighting for your job and that's tough. We have a young team which can be tough but it's crazy that we were almost relegated. We have too good of a team to have that happen.
"Personally, I had a knee injury that I got during preseason which lingered the entire season. It was a torn meniscus in my knee and was with me the whole season. I had some good games and bad games so I think I would give myself an average rating, but I'll have a lot more to show next year."
The ever-optimistic Miller still contends that Halmstad will be a force to be reckoned with come 2011. A new coach in Josep Clotet Ruiz joins the club after serving as an assistant with 2010 Allsvenskan champions Malmo FF.
Miller believes that his teammates will be excited to make a good impression and that he will personally be out to show that, when healthy, he can be one of the best defenders in the Allsvenskan.
"For me, I'm looking to get healthy, play with confidence and be a leader," he said of 2011. "I want next season to be a big difference from last season and I think the guys are excited with a new coach coming in. We are all starting from scratch and I think we can become of the most competitive teams in Sweden."
As for his playing future, the former Notre Dame standout says he is happy to stay with Halmstad for now but he would certainly welcome a new opportunity should a bigger club extend an offer.
"I'm happy where I am right now but I'm also optimistic so if a bigger club calls, I would do that," concluded Miller. "I want to play at highest level that I possibly can but honestly, I'm not too worried about that stuff. It'll all take care of itself."
Miller will join up with the US national team on Tuesday in Carson and will hope to earn his first cap on January 22nd in a friendly versus Chile.