You've all seen the reports by now, as they've been both myriad and sundry. For all intents and purposes, it looks like New York Red Bulls central defender Matt Miazga -- arguably the most promising defender in the national team pool, and arguably one of the top 5 defenders in MLS of any vintage last season -- is about to sign with EPL giants Chelsea. And it looks like he's going to get a legitimate shot at first-team ball:
Guus says Matt Miazga will be a squad player when his deal is finalised and the manager will assess his qualities in training. #CFC— Chelsea FC (@ChelseaFC) January 29, 2016
There are clearly some rough edges that need sanding. The good news for him, for USMNT fans and for Chelsea is that the kid's improvement curve has bent almost straight upwards over the last 18 months, and he's still just 20. He also has the internal reputation as someone who's focused almost exclusively on soccer, so he will put in the work.
Replacing Miazga will not be easy, even for a team that will now be awash in general allocation money. RBNY's success was in large part predicated on their high pressure, of which the central defensive partnership of Miazga and Damien Perrinelle was a crucial component. With one of those guys changing addresses and the other likely not available until late spring, Jesse Marsch & Co. have some work to do.
Two guys already on the roster -- Ronald Zubar and Karl Ouimette -- could be part of the answer. In what may be an early tell, second-round pick Zach Carroll, whose stock dropped after a tough Combine, got the start next to Zubar in RBNY's first preseason game. I've also long been a fan of A.J. Cochran, who is in camp as a trialist, and there will be other new faces around Harrison over the next six weeks trying to win a job.
It'll be interesting to see if they look for a guy who can specifically replicate Miazga's skillset. It's obviously not the easiest thing to find, and for a team that's had an otherwise stable offseason, filling this particular hole could have a system-wide effect.