Interview: Matt Miazga on recent U-20 trip, Red Bulls season

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

By TOMEK MOCZERNIUK
Contributing Writer

On September 10th, the USMNT U20 squad came back from a camp in Argentina with two victories and a draw under their belt. Such good results were possible due to a solid defensive effort by Red Bulls’ defender Matt Miazga, who had some interesting things to say about the trip.

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TM: What was the U.S. Men’s U-20 trip to Argentina like for you?

Matt Miazga: We spent a total of 10 days there. On September 1st, all US-based players met in Houston and then we flew to Buenos Aires. Then we were stationed on the grounds of Defensa y Justicia – a newcomer to the Argentinian Premier League. We trained twice a day, in the morning and in the afternoon. We had meals and team meetings. Everything was well organized. We were treated very well there, we had a peace of mind and really loved the food (laughter).

And what can you say about Buenos Aires?

MM: We did not have many opportunities to explore the city. The whole team went out for a dinner once. We also visited the historic stadium of Boca Juniors, which was impressive, but not as much at its surroundings. It seems that everything around is painted yellow and blue. Apart from that, we were supposed to go to a River Plate game, but it took place late in the evening and since the next morning we had a game scheduled, we had to let that idea go.

Speaking of games, first you got two wins: 2:0 against the Racing reserves and 3:2 with Defensa y Justicia. You featured in both of them, though in the second one as a substitute. Why?

MM: Because in the first one – played on September 4th – I played the entire 90 minutes. Racing is a good, technical team, but we were stronger and did not allow a goal. Two days later, in a meeting with Defensa y Justicia, I knew I would not start. I came in at halftime with the score tied at 2, because at the beginning the ref manufactured two penalties for the hosts, but then we managed to equalize and in the second part delivered a decisive blow. It showed our character. We played until the end and did not want to settle for a draw.

Then you had a real test vs Argentina U20. Apparently this 1:1 meeting was played without an audience.

MM: Yes, we played without fans because the game took place on the Argentine football federation premises, where civilians are not allowed. It was an early start – 11:30 am – as well. The game was pretty even. In the first half Argentina had more possession, but in the second they were lucky not to lose this one. But a draw against such football giants in Argentina has to be treated as a success — especially since we were missing a few key players.

Did you trade your jersey with Luis Leszczuk?

MM: (laughter) No! It was not until after the game, when I noticed that one of the Argentinians had a familiar-sounding, Eastern-European name. Even so, such exchange would not have happened, because all the equipment needed to be returned.

Overall do you think that Argentina camp brought ​​you closer to the CONCACAF Championship that will take place in January in Jamaica?

MM: I think so. This already is our 5th camp and coach Tab Ramos says that the core is ready. With each consecutive call, we get even better and everything falls into the right place.

Four top finishers in Jamaica will punch their tickets to New Zealand, a place of the next U20 World Cup. You have not played in such a big event yet. How would you feel about being there in June 2015?

MM: That would be really awesome! Of course, first we have to qualify, but a trip to the tournament would be such a great accomplishment. Representing your country at this level and competing with all the best players in the world in my age bracket sounds so exciting to me! It would also be a chance to display my skills in front of fans and scouts at the stadium, and of course, worldwide on TV.

Did the camp hurt your chances of breaking back into Red Bulls starting XI? Sekgaya and Olave did a great job against the MLS champions and then a leader of the Eastern Conference. And next in line is Armando.

MM: I know that they did well. We followed the scores on the Internet and I was very pleased with both victories, especially over Kansas because of Erik Palmer-Brown, who is the other center defender on U20 and plays for Sporting. We talked a little smack, but at the end I was on top. (Laughter) As for the Red Bulls’ job – I do not think my chances declined because coach Mike Petke bets on players who do well in training, and at practices, I always give my best. It’s all a matter of being in top shape and I hope that the coach sees it.

This fall will be very busy for the Red Bulls, as they have seven league and two CONCACAF Champions League games remaining. If Petke uses the rotation we will see you on the field. If you had to choose – would you prefer the league or the cup?

MM: I have no preference. I only know that if the coach picks me I’ll do anything to seize the opportunity and help the team win games.