CLEVELAND (92.3 the Fan) – There is not a long list of American players who have made their mark on the grounds in England in the British Premier League. As of now, there are only two Americans on an active Premier League roster in Stoke City centre back Geoff Cameron and Newcastle United fullback and former Akron Zip DeAndre Yedlin.
That number seems to continue to decrease as time goes on, but the man who pushed the US through as champions of CONCACAF Gold Cup Group B hopes to be the next man on that list.
Needing another goal to win the group, 21-year old CB Matt Miazga headed home a Graham Zusi free kick to give the Americans the goal they coveted in the 88th minute.
The goal was the Chelsea FC prospect’s first with the senior club, and said it happened because of the recklessness of Nicaraguan defender Luis Copete.
“It was kind of too good to be true,” Miazga said. “I wasn’t really marked. The player that was marking me the whole game (Copete) got red-carded, so I was kind of free, (Zusi) played a phenomenal ball, kind of floated it in. I saw it the whole way, guided it into the goal.”
Marked or unmarked, the goal remained impressive because of the fact Miazga was playing the 88th minute of his first match since in two months. On loan from Chelsea with Dutch side Vitesse, the season ended for the youngster on May 14th.
Miazga said he was in ‘pre-season mode’ before his call-up for the Gold Cup, with Chelsea’s EPL title-defense kicking off on August 12th. The Polish-American said he had to work double time to increase his fitness for the event so that he would be ready should his time be called.
In his first cap for the US senior squad since Jurgen Klinsmann was dismissed, new manager Bruce Arena said he was ‘very impressed,’ a sentiment Miazga seemed to echo.
“This is the first time I’m working with Bruce. Great manager,” Miazga said. “I was training a little bit on my own, so I had to really push. I had to push these past two weeks on my fitness, always doing extra after training because we were only doing one-a-days. I’m happy, I’m getting more and more fit.”
Saying his only objective was to help the team notch a clean sheet, the moment for the 21-year was fitting, showing his growth from when he debuted as a teenager for New York Red Bulls of MLS. The growth caught the eye of former Red Bulls teammate Dax McCarty.
“When he was with Red Bulls, he got a couple of unfortunate red cards because I think he lost his head there a little bit,” the 30-year old said. “He made a couple of rash decisions. I think his decision making has gotten a lot better since he’s played over in Holland. You can tell he has refined his game a little bit too, he’s a lot more patient, a lot more calm on the ball. He knows when to play it short, knows when to play long.
“I think he’s proven a lot and it’s great to see. I think it’s good to see, and I hope he continues to get better.”
With the Premier League season on the horizon, the youngster will return to London to hash out his next step with Chelsea Manager Antonio Conte. That moment could come after the US’s Gold Cup run concludes, or if Arena removes Miazga with one of his six allotted roster moves before the Quarterfinals.
With the departure of Chelsea John Terry, the Blues could use Miazga as a reserve and for their own cup ties. With just two appearances for the defending champions in 2016 and plenty of money ready to be spent before the closing of the summer transfer window, the prospect could be sent out on loan again.
For now, Miazga will take what he can get.
“There’s options in play,” he said. “Obviously right now I’m focused on the Gold Cup. I’ve got to go back to Chelsea and we’ll talk the next step. They’re really happy with my progress, my development, I’m very happy with my progress, my development. I’m very happy with the way it’s going, and I’m headed in the right direction, so it’s all good.”