Eric Miller
ESNY Graphic, AP Photo

Defender Eric Miller was traded out of his home team’s MLS side, Minnesota United FC, to New York City FC, and now provides depth in their backline throughout a busy schedule.

Onz Chery

“I was super excited. I knew I always wanted to come home and play here,” right back Eric Miller told Dan Emerson of Woodbury Magazine about getting traded to Minnesota United F.C. on May 1, 2018.

It was like a fantasy for Miller, something most soccer players dream of: to play for their home state.

Miller’s wife, Kassey Miller, is also from Minnesota. His wife’s brother, Brent Kallman, was also in The Loons’ roster when he joined them.

Kallman and Miller are very close friends and played high school soccer together, and here they were on the same MLS team at home.

Miller was hoping to play for Minnesota for a decade.

However, even though, he was playing at home, things didn’t go as planned. He played in 18 of Minnesota’s 26 matches in 2018, which isn’t too bad, as far as playing time.

But the team ended the season with an 11W-20L-3T record while conceding the most goals in the league, 71 in 34 outings.

The following season, Miller started to see his minutes drop considerably. The defender only played in six of Minnesota’s first 22 MLS games.

Rookie fullback Chase Gasper was favored over Miller. And the club added another fullback on their roster, Wilfried Moimbe, an ex Ligue 1 player. Hence, Miller’s playing time was in serious danger.

“If there’s a guy better than you, unfortunately, you find yourself in a tough position where there’s not a lot you can do,” he told Glenn Crooks of Pro Soccer USA.

The club thought it was best to send him to another team. The Loons traded Miller to NYCFC on July 29, 2019.

“The timing was right,” MUFC sporting director Manny Lagos told Andy Greder of the Pioneer Press.

“You had New York looking for something that we didn’t probably need right now, which was some depth in their roster. I think we have a lot of depth with Moimbe filling those positions.”

The Minnesotan wasn’t going to play home anymore where he was so excited to be and had to go 1,364.5 miles away to New York.

Going to a new team is nothing new to Miller. New York City FC is the fourth MLS team of his five-year professional career.

Despite hopping from teams to teams, Miller has a little something in him. He won Colorado Rapids’ Defensive Player of the Year in 2017 and helped them finished runner-up in the Supporters’ Shield race the previous year.

Furthermore, Miller can play anywhere in the defense. He’s exactly what The Pigeons wanted: a versatile defender with MLS experience.

“He’s a versatile player who performs well in different positions which give our roster added flexibility when playing varying systems,” NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna said in a statement.

“Eric brings with him over 100 games of MLS experience and is exactly the type of person who fits into the culture we’ve built here at NYCFC.”

Miller was clearly wanted in The Bronx. But the interesting thing is that he wasn’t wanted as a starter but was still expected to have an instant impact.

“One of our goals during the summer transfer window was to add depth at the right-back position and Eric is a player who can come in and immediately strengthen our team,” Reyna noted.

New York has two talented fullbacks on both sides of the pitch, Ronald Matarrita on the left and Anton Tinnerholm on the right. In fact, with their help, the Boys in Blue have conceded the second least goals in the Eastern Conference.

Miller’s job is to add depth to one of the best defenses in the league. That’s an arduous job with a tone of pressure if you think about it.

If you mess up, you’re disorientating one of the best backlines in the MLS, and NYCFC is a team that worked their way up to where their defense is at. At the beginning of the season, they were nowhere near being a defensive powerhouse.

And then here comes Miller, a player who just left the fantasy of playing for his home and just 10 days later he was asked to step up in one of the best defense in the league.

The defender made his debut for New York on Aug. 8th, 2019 against Houston Dynamo. You can argue and say he gave Tommy McNamara too much space to cross the ball on Houston’s first goal.

NYCFC won the match, 3-2. Miller clocked in 58th minute.

The former Creighton University player was asked to start again against F.C. Cincinnati on Aug. 17.

Miller filled up the big shoe of a defensive position in New York’s team quite well except for when he was caught ball watching and allowed FCC winger Roland Lamah to fly past him.

But the defender did catch up to Lamah and fouled him in the box. Emmanuel Ledesma ended up missing the penalty and New York won the match, 4-1.

He did concede a spot-kick but Miller showed determination and recovery speed, two things that are extremely helpful in defense.

He will more than likely have other chances to show more of what he can do in the back. New York has six regular-season games left in a month span.

“We just have an insane amount of games coming throughout the last two months of the season so I think honestly,” Miller said, “if I can provide some help and push him [Tinnerholm] and the others in training every day to be the best version of themselves, I think that’s great.”

Originally from Haiti, Ralph 'Onz' Chery started his writing career as a City College of New York student with The Campus. He also wrote for First Touch, the Cosmopolitan Soccer League and other local leagues. After graduating, Onz started covering the New York Red Bulls for ESNY and joined Haitian Times.