HANOVER, N.J. – At just 19 years of age, Matt Miazga has already accomplished his fair share.
A member of the US national team at the U-18, U-20 and U-23 levels, Miazga has a good amount of experience on the youth international stage. Now, the New Jersey native is finally getting his chance to shine for his hometown club.
“I get my confidence with the national team," said Miazga. "When you’re playing with guys your age, you feel more comfortable stepping up as a leader and communicating with them. I try to translate that confidence here with my club.”
Since signing with the Red Bulls in May of 2013, Miazga has seen only sparse first-team minutes. But following the offseason departures of Jamison Olave and Armando coupled with the retirement of Ibrahim Sekagya, the center back position has suddenly been thrown up for grabs. With first-choice defender Ronald Zubar sidelined with a hamstring injury suffered in New York’s season opener, Miazga has taken advantage of his opportunity to make an impression.
“I worked really hard to earn minutes, so when injuries happen you always have to be ready,” said Miazga. “This is my third year now so I know how the system works. Every year I learn more on how to care for myself as a professional and be consistent with my play. When an opportunity comes I have to perform and be ready to contribute to the team.”
The chance to suit up for the first team is a privilege that is not lost on the youth international. The realization of years of hard work, Miazga has seen what it takes to make it make it at the highest level, and is determined to make the most of his first-team minutes.
“I was with the academy since I was 14 and my dream was always to be in the first team,” Miazga told MLSsoccer.com. “As I got older, I had opportunities to train with [the first team] and I really saw that level and I knew what [level] I had to get to in order to be a professional.”
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While somewhat new to the program, head coach Jesee Marsch has praised the work of his young center back in the early season, hoping that the experience gained will reap benefits over the course of a long MLS campaign.
“We believe in our young guys,” Marsch said. “Getting Matt minutes early in the season will be important for us in the long haul. I thought he did well last game and he’ll do even better [this weekend].”
Throughout his years in the Red Bulls Academy system, Miazga has seen some of his role models, namely Markus Holgersson and Tim Ream, play prominent roles within the New York defense. Now a fixture within the senior squad, Miazga has transitioned from a star gazing youngster, to a success story to which current Red Bull academy products can look towards with hope.
“It’s a great feeling knowing that you have young players [like Tyler Adams] looking up to you and how you came up the system," said Miazga. "Every academy player strives to move up to the first team and be a professional. That’s the main goal. The way Red Bull has it set up now, it’s a great place and system to move up the ranks and play first team football.”