HANOVER, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls returned to practice on Wednesday morning to prepare for their upcoming playoff push, and with them for the first time in two months was Roy Miller.
Sidelined since suffering an Achilles’ injury back in an Aug. 25 loss to Chivas USA, Miller made his way back onto the field for his first full training session. The veteran left back lasted throughout the entire 90-minute session without hindrance and afterward expressed excitement toward being back in the mix just in time for the beginning of the postseason.
“I’m happy to be back with the entire group because it’s important to be ready for this moment when the club is preparing for the playoffs,” Miller told MLSsoccer.com. “I might not be on their level in terms of fitness or in a rhythm like them, but the important thing is that the injury is behind me, that little by little I regain my level.
“I know it’s a little late in the year, but if coach needs me for some minutes I’ll be available to try and help the group once again.”
Miller made it clear Wednesday that he has been eager to return to action by mentioning the exact date of the last game he played. But that should not come as a surprise considering that his knock has coincided with New York’s best run of the season, one that has seen the club go unbeaten in eight matches to claim its first trophy via the Supporters’ Shield on Sunday.
That successful stretch is part of why Miller is so focused on regaining fitness and sharpness, as he wants to be able to perform for the red-hot Red Bulls if his number is called at some point in the next few weeks.
“I’d say I’m at 80 percent right now,” said Miller, who has been replaced in the lineup by Australian international David Carney. “The training sessions will help me get into a rhythm. Obviously, it’s not the same as playing in games, but at least I’ll have a base from which to work from if I’m called upon.”
While Miller’s return may seem like good news given that he adds more depth to a Red Bulls squad that is almost at full health, some fans will view it negatively.
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Miller has been somewhat of a lightning rod for mistakes and unfortunate incidences in the playoffs in recent years, with his most recent blunder coming in the 2012 Eastern Conference Semifinals when he came off the bench and scored an own goal against D.C. United.
Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke made it clear Wednesday, however, that he will not think about any of that when and if the time comes to consider Miller for a starting spot in this postseason.
“I don’t look back on mistakes or anything like that, not at all,” Petke told MLSsoccer.com. “It’s about who’s in form now. It’s not about past or anything like that. It’s about who’s ready to play.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.