It was undoubtedly disappointing for Seattle Sounders fans to hear that their second round draft pick opted to join a club in Germany's fourth division instead of joining them as the No. 3 goalkeeper behind Stefan Frei and Troy Perkins. It doesn't help that Seattle traded Sean Okoli's MLS rights to New England to make sure they could draft Tyler Miller.
It's also understandable that a player in Miller's position would want to explore the option of playing in Europe before signing an MLS contract and the unilateral options that often come with it. Many of us can also relate to wanting to take advantage of an opportunity to live and work in another part of the world at a young age.
Another reason for signing with a fourth-division club in Germany is that it probably exposes him to more scouts from bigger clubs in Europe than would be the case if he was playing in USL PRO with S2. But for that to happen, he needs to get playing time.
So what kind of playing time can he expect? As it turns out, Thorsten Hodel, who has been Zweibrücken's starting goalkeeper since 2010 moved to SV Hermersberg on a free transfer at the beginning of the January transfer window. Hodel made nearly 150 appearances in his 4.5 seasons with the club.
With Hodel gone, it looks like Miller will compete with the remaining goalkeepers: Tayfun Altin, Jean Michel Caillas, Mirko Gerlinger, and Dirk Jank. Here's what we know about those players:
Altin is a 19-year-old Turkish born goalkeeper who joined the club from Fortuna Köln last summer after Fortuna was promoted to the 3.Liga. Prior to joining the Fortuna senior roster, Altin was a member of the U19 squad, which he joined in 2012 on a free transfer from Bergisch Gladbach, where he had played for the U17 team. He played 270 minutes with Bergisch Gladbach and 90 minutes with Fortuna Köln U19, but has yet to make an appearance with any senior squad.
He doesn't appear to have anywhere near Miller's level of experience, so he probably won't be considered much of an obstacle to playing time for Miller.
Jean Michel Caillas
Caillas is a fairly recent addition to Zweibrücken, having signed with the club on a free transfer at the beginning of October. He previously played for DKJ Ballweiler Wecklingen, an amateur club in a lower division in the western region. He also serves as the club's goalkeeping coach.
At 32 years old and with his only playing experience coming a the amateur level, it doesn't look as if Caillas is much of a threat to win playing time over Miller either -- although it is somewhat concerning that Miller will be coached by someone with no professional playing experience.
Gerlinger is a product of Kaiserslautern's youth academy. He played for them through the U17 and U19 levels, but it doesn't appear as if he got much playing time there, with only 1 appearance with the U19's in a youth cup match. His lack of playing time probably had something to do with him signing with FC Homburg Saar (another club in the Regionalliga Südwest) on a free transfer in 2013. After spending a season and a half making no appearances with Homburg Saar, Gerlinger signed with Zweibrücken on a free transfer earlier this month.
At 19, he's a couple of years younger than Miller and doesn't seem to have the kind of experience to be considered strong competition with Miller for playing time this season.
Jank is another young goalkeeper brought in by Zweibrücken this month. It's likely that he was brought in due to an existing relationship with Caillas from their time at Ballweiler Wecklingen. Jank played there during the 2013/14 season and the first half of the 2014/15 season. Prior to that, he played for SV Auersmacher while the club was in the Oberliga Südwest, making only 2 appearances while conceding 10 goals.
Although Jank is a couple of years older than Miller, he is fairly inexperienced and doesn't appear to be ready to start for a club at this level just yet.
A four-year starter at Northwestern University, Miller compiled an impressive record. He played 7,364 minutes in 77 appearances, all of them starts. He conceded 65 goals for an impressive 0.79 goals against average. He made a total of 233 saves, averaging just over 3 per game. He finished his collegiate career at Northwestern with a save percentage of 78.2%. Northwestern's 12 goals conceded in 2014 is a school record.
None of the other current goalkeepers have anywhere near the level of experience that Miller has. That probably has something to do with why he decided to sign with Zweibrücken. Getting playing time in Germany's fourth division is probably more valuable to him right now than sitting on the bench in a higher league. If he can help the club avoid relegation and improve its defensive record, that could turn enough heads to get him a contract in one of those higher leagues. If not, coming to Seattle and playing for S2 is always an option. Zweibrücken's season ends in late May and it's conceivable that Miller could be training with the Sounders by June.