BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Roy Miller has a long history of folding under pressure.
In three years with New York, the longest tenured Red Bull has also been the most gaffe-prone member of the team when it comes to high-intensity situations.
During the 2010 playoffs, Miller failed to spot a streaking Wondolowski in the box allowing a late, series tying goal to the Earthquakes and all but assuring New York’s elimination from the playoffs. In 2011, a clumsy challenge in the box against David Beckham allowed Landon Donovan to sink a ball in from the spot thus sending the Red Bulls toppling out of the postseason. Just last year, Miller had two memorable playoff gaffes: an own goal at RFK Stadium against DC United and a potential playoff saving free kick taken in the return leg that was kicked so far off the mark, people are still waiting for the ball to land.
During Sunday’s 2-1 loss at San Jose, you saw both the best and worst of Miller. For nearly 70 strong minutes, he was one of the steadiest members of a shaky and suspect defensive line. His overlapping runs were few, but noticeable, giving New York an added dimension in an otherwise timid attack.
As the match entered it’s final minutes and with New York clinging to the lead, the other half of Roy Miller reared its ugly head. Dr. Jeckyl turned Mr. Hyde on the game tying goal as Miller lost his marker, allowing Adam Jahn to knot the game up at 1-1.
One can argue that Luis Robles could have been more aggressive on the cross, but the passive Miller did little to protect the back post regardless of his keeper’s positioning.
The transformation continued for Miller. He inconceivably conceded a corner after juggling the first attempt out of danger. Before you could ask yourself “what was that about?” the Costa Rican back took a flailing stab at blocking a rainbow header from Sam Cronin. He got to the attempt but used his hands in the box to do it, which he apparently forgot was a major no-no in soccer.
Luis Robles redeemed the failures of his defender by stopping the ensuing penalty kick, but once again, Miller could not get out of his own way. Nearly matching Wondolowski step-for-step the minute the whistle blew for the PK, the defender was called for encroachment and the kick was ordered to be retaken.
Wondolowski didn’t miss and Miller was once again guilt of another costly implosion.
Miller’s continued ineptitude at the end of the match took away from what had been a well-executed plan by the Red Bulls. New York held on to their one goal lead and played, as Hans Backe once put it, “cynical soccer” to bring home a point or even three. The one thing they did not account for was another mental breakdown by Roy Miller.
“They worked their asses off,” Petke said of his players after the match. “I’ll give them that. But we didn’t learn from our playoff penalty kick. Stepping in the box early again after a great save by Robles? Killed us.”
For many, it was a surprise that Miller made it through to another season with New York in the first place. It was even more surprising to see him excel in preseason and be heralded as one of the better defenders during training camp by the team’s staff. His play this winter put him over Heath Pearce and Connor Lade on the team’s shallow left back depth chart. Pearce, a career leftback, has made a strong transition to the middle which helped, in part, alleviate the competition at the spot. Nevertheless, after a game like the one he suffered in San Jose, it would be shocking to see Miller start for the Red Bulls again any time soon.
“I’m not going to tell (Miller) a word tonight,” Petke said after the match. “I’ll calm myself down a little bit, rewatch the video on the plane and address all the issues (this week).”
What do you think of Miller’s latest meltdown? Should the Red Bulls waive him? Think he could still be a useful player for New York? Who would you start in his place?
Share your thoughts below.