Names in the news: MLS prospect Matt Miazga

Matt Miazga in action for the New York Red Bulls. (Paul Vernon/AP)

Name: Matt Miazga
Born: July 19, 1995, in Clifton, New Jersey
Position: Defender
Pro club: Chelsea


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Why is he in the news?
Premier League heavyweights Chelsea signed Miazga to a four-and-a-half year contract this week after paying Major League Soccer outfit New York Red Bulls a £3.5 million transfer fee for his services.

He’s special because
Teams the calibre of Chelsea don’t buy young defenders unless they have something on the ball, and Miazga does.

Regarded as a top American prospect after a breakout MLS campaign in 2015, Miazga is a commanding physical presence—he stands six-foot-four—and he’s naturally athletic. He’s also a technical player who is comfortable on the ball and has decent passing range.

At 20 years of age, don’t expect him to start for Chelsea—or even see much action—anytime soon. But he has talent, and he’s definitely a player Chelsea will groom for the future. Don’t be surprised if Chelsea sends him out on loan to gain some seasoning and experience.

“We don’t rush him, but he will be one of the squad members for the future,” Chelsea manager Guus Hiddink explained.

“He’s a young guy stepping up to the national team and it’s always good to have such players here so you can see what they are capable of in training. He’s a young player, a promising player—let’s see if he can get himself to the high demands of this club and the Premier League.”

Club career
Miazga was a product of the New York Red Bull academy, cutting his teeth within the MLS team’s youth system before signing a homegrown contract with the club in 2013.

He played one regular-season game that year and just seven matches in 2014. But 2015 was when he made a breakthrough, winning a starting role early on in the season before going on to make 30 regular-season and playoff appearances—28 as a starter.

His solid play did not go unnoticed—he finished fourth in the voting for 2015 MLS Defender of the Year award.

International career
After appearing in one match for Poland’s under-18 team—he qualified through his parents—Miazga played for the U.S. youth teams at several levels, helping the American side qualify for the 2015 FIFA U-20 World Cup. He started four games in New Zealand as the U.S. reached the quarterfinals.

He also started four games for the U.S. in the 2016 Olympic qualifying tournament.

After considering playing for Poland, Miazga pledged his international allegiance to the U.S. and made his senior-team debut for the Americans on Nov. 5, 2015, coming on as a second-half substitute against Saint Vincent and the Grenadines in a World Cup qualifier in St. Louis.

His most famous moment
Miazga has scored only one goal in his 38 games as a professional, but what a goal it was. Last June he netted the winner for the Red Bulls against city rivals New York City FC at Yankee Stadium off a glancing header:

His celebration after scoring that goal in Yankee Stadium was pretty cool, too:

Here’s a few interesting facts
• There is only a small handful of Americans currently in the Premier League, a list that includes Tim Howard (Everton), Brad Guzan (Aston Villa), DeAndre Yedlin (Sunderland), Geoff Cameron (Stoke City) and Cameron Carter-Vickers (Tottenham).
• Miazga signed a letter of intent to play for the University of Michigan in 2013. He ended up changing his mind and decided to turn pro when he inked a contract with the Red Bulls.
• He was named MLSsoccer.com's Breakout Player of the Year for 2015.
• He also finished fifth in MLS's “24 under 24” list for 2015.
• Miazga cites former Barcelona defender Carles Puyol as one of his idols.

What they’re saying about him
“Obviously, it's a huge move for Matt. I mean, being 20 years of age and then getting that opportunity now, going overseas and proving himself, is big. It's big for our program, it's big for us when a player moves to a [UEFA] Champions League team, a big team, a big club. So we're happy for him, we're pleased, but we know also he's just developing.” – Jurgen Klinsmann, U.S. national team coach

He said it