For most of the New York Red Bulls’ players, Saturday’s match vs. Arsenal is just another friendly. For Roy Miller, it is a chance to prove how close he is to resuming his place in the starting lineup.
After a more than two-month absence, Miller is on the cusp of playing in his first game for New York since leaving for World Cup duty with Costa Rica in mid-May. Miller last played for the club on May 10, starting and going the distance in a thrilling 5-4 loss to the Chicago Fire.
Head coach Mike Petke had openly stated last week that he hoped the veteran left back would be recovered from the muscle injury sustained in Brazil in time to play in this weekend’s high-profile exhibition match against the Gunners (5 pm ET on ESPN2).
Miller appears to be on track with regards to that timetable.
“I watched him work out the last week or so, and he looks good,” said Petke. “In my perfect scenario, Roy will have a part in this game against Arsenal, which will gauge where he’s at. From there, based on how he does, how he recovers, that’ll give us an answer for his role to play in the next game. I’m very hopeful and optimistic about Roy. It’ll be great to have him back.”
After helping Costa Rica make a historic run to the quarterfinals in his much-anticipated first World Cup, Miller returned to the Red Bulls last week. He was spotted doing some running with a trainer during his first few days back, but was not deemed healthy enough to return to action in last Wednesday’s loss to the Philadelphia Union or this past Saturday’s draw vs. the San Jose Earthquakes.
The 29-year-old defender has missed New York’s last nine games, and fearless youngster Ambroise Oyongo has done an admirable job filling in for Miller on the backline. Petke said earlier this month that when Miller is fully available, the Costa Rican or Oyongo might have to move into midfield in order to get them both on the field.
Miller, however, needs to first prove he is capable of playing 90 minutes again, and is still working his way towards doing so.
“I feel good,” Miller recently told MLSsoccer.com. “Now the important thing is to recover well, regain fitness and then we’ll see how things play out.”
Now healthy, Miller is aiming to get back to the type of form he showed in his 10 starts at the beginning of the season, when he played some of the best soccer of his club career and earned rave reviews from Petke.
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His achievements down in Brazil are in the rearview mirror now, but they still hold special significance to him and might be what spur him to do even better during the second half of the season.
“It was something incredible from a personal standpoint because it was something I had been waiting for,” said Miller, who received a classy tribute from the Red Bulls and Petke before last weekend’s 1-1 draw against the Earthquakes. “I enjoyed it tremendously, because you never know when you can experience that again. I really enjoyed it and when it was my turn to play, I tried to do my best.
“I not only enjoyed that moment that I experienced, but also that of the team. We did things that no one imagined or thought, with Costa Rica reaching the quarterfinals. From that aspect, [I'm] happy personally to have been there and been able to play.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.