HARRISON, N.J. – Matt Miazga could have stuck to the plan and gone to play in college, or he could have signed with a number of European clubs and tried his luck overseas.
Ultimately he chose neither, preferring instead to turn pro as a member of his hometown New York Red Bulls.
Miazga, a 17-year-old center back from Clifton, N.J., became the eighth player in Red Bulls history to graduate from the club’s academy to the first team when he signed his first professional contract on Thursday. In doing so, Miazga spurned offers from several interested teams across Europe (one in England, one in Germany, two in Poland) and reneged on his commitment to the University of Michigan.
And he also realized his dream of becoming a professional player.
“That’s what I’ve always wanted to do. I love playing soccer,” Miazga told MLSsoccer.com. “My whole life has been about becoming a professional. Red Bulls are my hometown team, I grew up playing for them since I was 14 and it’s where my heart is. I’m just glad to be a part of the professional team.”
A right-footed defender at 6-foot-3 and 185 pounds, Miazga will not join the Red Bulls first team for another three weeks. He wants to finish high school first and New York’s coaching staff does not seem bothered by that, especially not after being in discussions to sign the hot commodity for over a month now.
“It’s been a long, protracted negotiation that one, because the boy had offers from European clubs and I was really keen we kept our talented young players,” Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said Thursday. “I said from the outset that our aim was to encourage and to develop American young players, and this really just underlines that commitment that we’ve got.”
Miazga is of Polish descent and he has represented both the US and Poland at youth international levels. Most recently he joined fellow Red Bulls first-team player Amando Moreno in a US Under-18 camp in Portugal, but the lanky center back is undecided as to which nation he will represent going forward, if given the opportunity.
“Right now, I don’t have a preference,” Miazga said. “I’m going day by day with the national team as well. Whoever calls me, I’d play for that country [and] I’ll give 100 percent for that country.”
The time may come for Miazga to make a decision on his international status, but for now his sole focus is on establishing himself with the club that has given him the chance to live his dream.
“My goal is to break into the starting 11 [but] I need to prove myself and show that I deserve a chance and deserve a spot,” he said. “But that all comes with hard work and I’m going to work really hard to get there.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.