Photo by ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
HARRISON, N.J. — This might be something few could have believed as recently as two weeks ago but in a recent stretch of eight days that saw the New York Red Bulls play three games, Roy Miller was one of the club’s most consistent performers.
The oft-criticized Miller earned his first start for the Red Bulls since his well-documented meltdown in Week 2’s loss to the San Jose Earthquakes when New York visited D.C. United on April 13. The Costa Rican was a shock starter in the Atlantic Cup match but to the surprise of many fans and pundits, he held up well and helped negate Chris Pontius and Dwayne De Rosario en route to the Red Bulls picking up a 2-0 win.
It’s been more of the same since then. Miller was given the nod in both a 1-0 home loss to Sporting Kansas City and a 4-1 pummeling of the New England Revolution, and in both games the 28-year-old left back provided a good outlet for the Red Bulls’ midfielders, was confident on the ball (even delivering some nifty passing combinations with Thierry Henry against the Revolution) and, most importantly, defended well.
The newfound confidence Miller is playing with has been nothing short of impressive, especially after all the public criticism he received earlier in the season when he displayed a lack of knowledge for the rules of the game by admitting to encroaching on a penalty kick on purpose.
“I didn’t dress him for games afterwards and I wasn’t happy with him at times throughout that process,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said after seeing his club defeat New England this past Saturday. “But the one thing that I said all along and Roy did, and that’s the type of character I want, he held his hand up, made no excuses, took the blame for everything and went to work every day. No complaints out of him. That to me spells character right there”
Miller’s teammates also attested to his selfless attitude throughout the past week and they were also happy to see him show his quality on several plays in those three games, including on one sublime cross to Henry that should have resulted in an equalizer against Sporting KC.
Miller, himself, has admitted to being content with how he has performed recently but his string of strong showings dates back to before that start against United.
A week before playing at RFK Stadium, Miller shone in a reserve team game against the Chicago Fire and he had also been performing in training for some time, signs that indicated to Petke that his troubled left back was over the hump and ready to contribute again.
“I said it before if I don’t reward my players, why should we have a reserve team, why should we have 30 players on the roster,” said Petke. “He’s a good example of somebody who had a bit of a dip and bounced back.”
Bounced back and then some, as Miller has taken full advantage of an opportunity that seemed so unlikely to come not long ago.