Many were sad to see Tyler Miller go when Los Angeles Football Club selected him from the Seattle Sounders with the first of its five picks in the 2017 Expansion Draft. In LAFC’s first official match Sunday, Miller proved why, putting in a stellar performance that turned the tide and kept Seattle off the scoresheet in a rare home loss for the Sounders.
Miller, who was limited to two professional games in two years behind Stefan Frei in Seattle, made a strong case with his play that the starting spot in LA should belong to him and him alone. The 24-year-old keeper made seven saves and swatted away more than his fair share of the 12 corners that the Sounders sent his way.
One stop in particular turned heads. Two minutes after Seattle conceded, Nouhou put a laser effort across the face of goal on a volley. Miller sprawled to his left, brushing the ball aside before it crossed the goal line.
“I’ve actually seen that ball a lot from him in training over the last two years,” Miller said, smiling. “I was kind of prepared for it. Normally, it goes in the 50th row, but I was prepared tonight.”
Miller wasn’t shy about crediting what he saw as the main sources of his development in Seattle:
“Training under Tommy Dutra and Stef as well as Bryan Meredith and the other goalies I got to train with,” Miller said. “For me, this was a great way to bring everything full circle. I had a great two and a half years here. A lot of good development over that course. To be able to come back here and put on a good performance meant a lot to me.”
Reflecting on his time in Seattle, Miller said advice from a college friend helped him keep his spirits up while navigating the tension-fraught world of looking for playing time as a goalie.
“One of my best friends in college told me to control the things that you can control. I knew that if I played or I didn’t play I couldn’t control that. All I could control was my effort and what I brought to the team. That’s what I’ve been able to focus on and that’s what kept me in a positive attitude.”
Cristian Roldan was adamant in his support for his former teammate.
“Tyler had a fantastic game,” Roldan said. “He shows that bit of quality, he’s a shot stopper. He’s very good with his feet, there were a couple passes that he didn’t just get away with, he purposely passed in between lines.
“I think the world of Tyler, I continue to believe in him, I think he’s going to be a fantastic player not only in this league, but I think he can make our national team. I think he’s that good of a player. It takes time for him, but if he continues to look to play with LAFC, he’s bound to have a good year and maybe some looks with the national team.”
Former Sounders with bright futures away from the club can be painful for fans to watch, but Miller is certain of the value that his time with Seattle added to his worth as a player and competitor. Miller mentioned to the media that he had made one request of his former teammates: the opportunity to swap jerseys with Frei when the club goes to Los Angeles Apr. 29.
It would be a fitting close to Miller’s first chapter away from the club that drafted him. Trading jerseys as an equal with the man he used to play behind.