Roy Miller’s not a household name. He’s not on the tongue of every Red Bulls supporter, and much less that of any Major League Soccer fan.
Despite being New York’s first signing of the season, he’s been overshadowed by Joel Lindpere—who, like Miller, arrived before the start of the 2010 campaign—and the later arrivals of Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez. Miller, however, doesn’t mind not getting any of the attention.
“I simply just go about doing my job,” he said this week. “What’s important is that I’m playing, that I’ve been having a good year, and I’m happy about that.”
In the two seasons prior to 2010, New York’s defense was dreadful. In 2008, the Red Bulls were pegged for 48 goals (fourth most in MLS); in 2009, they conceded 47 (tied for second most).
“When I got here, [the Red Bulls] had a losing hat on their head and were getting accustomed to losing,” general manager and sporting director Erik Soler told The New York Times recently.
To help remedy that, the first-year Red Bulls GM, who had been following Miller for some time, made the Costa Rican international his first acquisition. The versatile ex-Rosenborg defender was brought in during the offseason to help hold down a left back spot that had been problematic for the Red Bulls. The result: After rebuilding the back line, New York allowed just 29 goals this year, fourth least in all of MLS.
“When we talked to Roy in Norway if he could think of moving to Red Bulls,” head coach Hans Backe said, “it was a bit of a surprise [that he accepted the offer] because he could have definitely stayed in Scandinavia.”
Miller, who had won a starting spot at Rosenborg in ’08 before suffering a knee injury and subsequently being loaned out to Örgryte IS for the final half of the ’09 season, jumped at the chance to move to New York.
“I wanted to come and show that I can play well,” he said, “and I feel I’ve done that through hard work and ambition.”
Miller and the Red Bulls certainly got off to a good start. They won five of their first six games and got three clean sheets in that span. But the momentum would soon halt and Miller’s form would dip with it.
Following four straight losses, Miller, who had missed one of those matches, would be relegated to a substitute role for the following four games.
“[Miller] started, I would say, the first two months,” Backe said. “He looked a little bit fatigued when he arrived, but he’s just improving every month now. The last two or three months, he’s absolutely solid in the attacking and defending game, so he’s become a regular now.”
As Miller improved, so did New York’s record. With the left back has been in the starting lineup since July 17, the Red Bulls have lost only twice in 14 MLS matches, including last week’s 1-0 Eastern Conference semifinal win against the San Jose Earthquakes. In that span, they have also registered eight shutouts.
In the game against the Quakes, Miller committed a huge mistake on which San Jose’s Geovanni nearly capitalized. However, Miller also preoccupied San Jose’s Designated Player—who played on the right wing—with deep runs down the left flank, keeping the Brazilian too busy to make much of an impact.
“He’s a two-way player,” Backe said of Miller. “He’s not just a good defender, he’s technical, his skill is top class, he’s so precise in the buildup, in our attacking game. And I would say, still being such an attacking fullback, he defends very well. He has the whole package.”
As the Red Bulls try to finish off the series against San Jose on Thursday night (8 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes)—and perhaps further on in the playoffs if they win—they’ll rely on one of their unsung heroes to help pull the result.
Then, maybe, some more people will be talking about Roy Miller.