LOS ANGELES — Three matches. 270 minutes. 1 goal conceded. 6 goals for. Three victories. No dropped points. Two shutouts.
LAFC goalkeeper Tyler Miller has enjoyed playing his ex-club, the Seattle Sounders, so far in their brief MLS history. But for a guy who spent two and half years in Seattle, he has positive memories in Rave Green too, ahead of the second of two straight meetings against the Sounders, on Sunday (3:30 pm ET | ESPN in US; MLS LIVE on DAZN in Canada).
“It was a fun time. Showing up to the stadium every day, walking out and there were fifty-plus-thousand people there. It was just a really fun place to play, a lot of good people. Good environment. Just getting that first chance at what professional soccer was really like.”
But as for life in Seattle?
“Mostly what sticks out are just a lot of rainy days,” he told MLSsoccer.com last week, only half-joking.
After tending goal at Northwestern and short stint in the German fourth division, Miller arrived in Seattle to support the established starter, Stefan Frei — who would be beaten dramatically by a Laurent Ciman free kick in the first-ever match at Banc of California Stadium last April with his former backup posting a shutout across the field in the North End — and it wasn’t an easy transition for him.
“It was difficult at first. I had come from college where I was playing all the time,” said Miller, who grappled with learning how to be a backup. “You’re chasing someone down all the time and no matter really how well I was playing [it didn’t necessarily mean] that I was going to start and play.”
Miller vividly remembers all the time he spent with Sounders 2 — once for a stretch of 17 straight days — and how playing with the reserves forced him to develop a new mindset.
“I just began to say, ‘Hey, this is my opportunity to play and be ready in case something happens.’ In the end, I ended up playing in the Western Conference final my last year and that’s a big reason why I’m here is because I performed well there and John [Thorrington] saw me.”
Of course, the LAFC general manager knew Miller from their shared time at Northwestern —Thorrington was getting his MBA after retiring from MLS while Miller was a student-athlete — but in just his third-ever first team appearance, Miller helped Seattle keep a clean sheet in Houston in 2017 and return to defend their MLS Cup.
Only a few weeks after that performance against the Dynamo, Miller was sitting with Sounders defender Chad Marshall watching the Expansion Draft.
“I had heard there was a good chance that I [would be] taken but I didn’t know for sure,” he said — remembering how “pumped” he was to be chosen. “[Marshall’s] just like ‘Oh man you got taken, that’s sick.’ Like [makes an exaggerated announcer voice], ‘Tyler Miller, first pick, LAFC,’ just messing around with me but he’s like an older brother to me.”
Having grown close to Marshall and others, there was a lot of emotion from Miller when he was selected as LAFC’s first choice.
Seattle’s manager also remembers him fondly.
"He worked hard for Tommy [Dutra, Seattle's GK coach],” Brian Schmetzer told MLSsoccer.com’s Ari Liljenwall on Friday. “He had a good crop of goalkeepers and Tyler put the work in. Stef's obviously a very, very, good goalkeeper, and you always learn from your peers. So, Tyler's done a great job and it's deservedly so that he's the starting goalkeeper there. I think he's played well.”
Life for Miller in Los Angeles has been different. He lives in Santa Monica now. There are fewer rainy days and less uncertainty about his preparation every week.
“In Seattle it was different in terms of the weekends. The weekends I would approach each game like. ‘I’m ready if I’m needed.’ Here [at LAFC] I’m trying to build on that consistency. I know as long as I keep playing well, I’ll keep playing. For me, now, every day in training is an opportunity for me to get better and better and so I take it day by day now more than I did when I was in Seattle.”
Miller’s play in LAFC’s inaugural season earned him a trip to his first US national team camp with Gregg Berhalter in January, though he wasn’t selected for a gameday roster.
“Each week and each year my expectations are changing,” Miller said. “My goal is to obviously get back [to the US national team] and earn a cap but right now I’m solely focused on LAFC and on how I can improve each day in training. I know if I can do that and I focus on that, that will get me to the next level where I need to be.”
From Schmetzer’s standpoint, the 26-year-old was on his way as soon as started his first game for the Black & Gold, on their famous opening win in Seattle last year.
"I remember the first time we played them here at home, their first game out when they won 1-0, he kept them in the game. He was amped up to play against his old team. So, he's done well."