The Call Up

Kompany, Mourinho & World Cup hopes: Matt Miazga dishes on return from Europe

Matt Miazga, upon joining Chelsea from the New York Red Bulls in 2016, played for six clubs over six-plus years. That stretch added up to 169 appearances in Europe, almost exclusively out on loan.

His time at Vitesse in Holland’s Eredivise made him feel most at home, spending two seasons there. Last season’s loan to Alaves in Spain’s LaLiga was the most enjoyable, learning a new language and immersing himself in Basque culture.

But which coach did the now-FC Cincinnati defender learn the most from? Vincent Kompany from his time at Anderlecht in Belgium’s top flight, hailing the former Manchester City captain’s impact on his game.

“Phenomenal manager, phenomenal coach,” Miazga said on The Call Up. “I learned so much with him, not just in the defensive aspect because he was a central defender, but also in football terms and understanding spacing and understanding pressure and building out the back, things of that nature. He was very good and I enjoyed learning under him.”

Miazga, back in MLS as a deadline-day signing for Cincy, made his Orange & Blue debut in last weekend’s 2-2 draw with Atlanta United. He had originally spent 2013-15 as a homegrown defender for New York, then earned a reported $5 million transfer in January 2016 to one of the English Premier League’s biggest clubs.

Miazga never quite broke through at Chelsea, making only a handful of appearances for the London giants. And while he never starred for the Blues, he’ll always remember his recruitment and conversations with now-AS Roma coach Jose Mourinho.

“I was a bit nervous,” Miazga told co-hosts Jillian Sakovits and Susannah Collins about their introduction. “I was a young kid essentially still and I’m meeting one of the winningest managers in football history. It was kind of like a starstruck moment, then it showed that he wanted me, he knew who I was and things came to fruition after that.”

Eventually, it became time for Miazga to return to the league where he debuted. He said “every American that is playing in Europe always thinks about coming home,” it’s just a matter of when and at the right spot. In the 27-year-old’s case, that meant coming to Cincy in early August via the No. 1 spot in the MLS Allocation Order, an acquisition pathway necessitated by his original outgoing transfer fee.

Miazga believes this new stop, having signed with Cincy through the 2025 MLS season (with an option for 2026), could provide him a road back into the US men’s national team. He’s been capped 22 times and is vying for a World Cup roster spot as manager Gregg Berhalter deliberates the 26-player group that’ll head to Qatar in November and compete in Group B.

“Unfortunately, for whatever reasons, the last 12 months or 10 months I wasn’t a part of any camps,” Miazga said. “But I’ve been in touch with Gregg numerous times throughout the year, so we’ve had our own personal, confidential talks that I won’t disclose.

“But that’s always in the back of my mind and I see that also a lot of players in MLS are getting called up to the US men’s national team. It will be nice to showcase my abilities here and maybe that will put me in a better position to get called up.”

As that quest unfolds, Miazga also reflected on how he’s most changed from his Red Bulls days to now. The answer should be music to Cincy fans’ ears.

“Just growing up as a leader, being more mature,” Miazga said. “When I left MLS I was still a kid essentially, very young, raw. Now I feel like a more mature, experienced leader.”

For more from Miazga, check out his whole The Call Up interview here.