NYRB homegrown Miazga sets his ceiling high
In recent years, the conveyor belt between the New York Red Bulls academy and the senior team has been frayed thin with use. As the calendar turned to 2013, no fewer than seven academy players had signed for the Red Bulls' first team, including the talented pair of Amando Moreno and Santiago Castano in December.
In late May, 6-foot-3 center back Matthew Miazga decided to forego his commitment to Michigan and make it a clean eight. He opted not to make the leap to the Red Bulls until after he finished high school, a commitment that wrapped around the Development Academy Playoffs last week.
Miazga started all three games in Frisco and after a 2-2 stumble in the first game, he led the defense to a pair of clean sheets to get the team into Finals Week later this month.
Miazga was one of the Red Bulls' longest serving academy players after going through a tryout to make the U14 team four years ago. After starring at every youth level for the Red Bulls, Miazga turned down professional offers in Poland, England and Germany to stay close to his home of Clifton, N.J.
Miazga says he labored over the decision, but it wasn't as tough as it might've seemed.
"Red Bull developed me very well," Miazga told TopDrawerSoccer.com. "Called into a few national camps, and that helped me at center back develop on the national stage. I've played a few reserve games, and I learned how high level soccer goes. I just went day by day just playing hard as I can."
Miazga was well known within the academy's coaching ranks, but he ripped into the club's consciousness when he helmed the Red Bulls to their first U16 academy title last July. Just two months later, he'd thrust his way into the U18 team, where he made 15 starts during the season.
His lack of playing time with the academy side wasn't down to his inability to hold down the starting spot. Far from it, in fact, as he bounced around the world on various national team duties. Miazga is of Polish descent, and he debuted with the Polish U18 team in October in a game against Slovenia.
His busy year at the U18 level wasn't through. In May, Miazga was called up to the U.S. U18 team for the 19th Annual International Juniors Tournament in Portugal. Miazga played all 90 minutes in all three of the U.S.'s games in a 1-1-1 showing, including a clean sheet in the team's 3-0 tournament-opening win over the Czech Republic.
A week later, Miazga was holding up a Red Bulls jersey for a snapping camera at Red Bull Arena as the team's newest homegrown signing.
"I think over the course of this year, just his maturity (has grown)," Red Bulls U18 coach Paul O'Donnell said. "He's coming into his own. He's got the ability to dominate a game at that position. In the air, he's got good feet. Sometimes he's a little more aggressive than we'd like him to be, but I think when he's on his game we're tough to score on. We haven't had him a lot this year between national team duty with Poland and the U.S., but when he's back there he's a leader, he's vocal and he's really become a leader there in the back."
There's still the matter of national team allegiance, which Miazga has yet to settle. While he was raised in the U.S., Miazga has deep family ties to Poland, and he told TopDrawerSoccer.com that he's still mulling his options as to which country he'll choose.
"Right now I don't know," Miazga said. "I've been getting called up to the USA a lot, so I'm just taking it day by day."
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