After his transfer to Chelsea, New York Red Bulls search for the next Matt Miazga

On Saturday afternoon, hours after Matt Miazga’s transfer to Chelsea FC became official, New York Red Bulls head coach Jesse March reflected on how quickly times had changed.

“Matt’s ascent in the soccer world has happened rather rapidly,” he recalled. “If you were to go back 12 months [ago], Matt was a very different player, different person, and certainly the level of experience he had as a professional was very different.”

Indeed, 20-year-old Miazga’s star rose supernova-like over the past year. A native of Clifton, New Jersey and a Red Bull Homegrown Player, he made 34 starts for the team, out of 38 appearances, since 2013.

Meanwhile, his role for his country grew exponentially. After time with the US U20s and U23s, USMNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann named Miazga to the senior squad for the first time this past November.

And on a conference call Saturday afternoon, Marsch and Red Bulls Sporting Director Ali Curtis described their efforts to keep him on the team, as well as, eventually, their plans to tweak their lineup to replace him.

Curtis said the transfer could be boiled down to four essential points.

“The first was that Matt indicated he wanted to play in Europe, now. The second, Matt’s contract expires at the end of the year and he was unwilling to sign a new contract,” Curtis said.

A future transfer in the upcoming summer window didn’t seem feasible either, he explained. “While we would have ended up with Matt playing for us for 12 months, we wouldn’t have received anything in the way of compensation to re-invest into our youth development system,” Curtis continued.  

Further, he said, had Miazga stayed, he likely would have missed significant chunks of regular season play due to duties on the Olympic team roster, as well as potential duties on the senior men’s national team.

Both Curtis and Marsch described efforts to keep Miazga at the team, including offering him a multi-year Designated Player contract.

“We were willing to pay Matt a very, very large salary,” Curtis said. “[But] there’s the personal side to it. Matt is 20 years old; he’s been living in New Jersey his entire life. He lived with his parents last year. At some point, a young man is going to leave home, and in Matt’s case, he made that decision now.”

Still, the team positioned Miazga’s move as a victory: It’s a sign that the Red Bulls’ youth academy has improved enough to produce players of top-flight, international quality.  And his transfer will actually help further the academy along.

Per league rules, the exact details of the deal have not been disclosed. But Curtis did say the funds from the transfer “helped immensely.” “We’re going to put all the funds back into our youth system,” he said, “so we can continue to improve the experience of our youth players in the local community.”

Meanwhile, with the 2016 season rapidly approaching, the Red Bulls continue to explore how they might replace Miazga and add depth in the center back position. Curtis said the team is still exploring the existing MLS market, as well as the international one—but that they could wind up finding another Miazga in the existing roster ranks.

“if you look at the way things unfolded last year, you saw that two guys who were already on the team in 2014 were probably our greatest contributors at that position—Damien Perrinelle and Matt Miazga,” he said. “So it could be a situation where we have another guy who was on our team in the previous year who steps up and finds opportunities.”