When it comes to building a squad in Major League Soccer, longevity with one side is not something easy to have. Every offseason brings constant change for players, as we are seeing now again after the end of the 2018 campaign. Roy Miller was with the New York Red Bulls for six seasons, but is often remembered by fans with a roll of the eye as opposed to a tip of the cap.
Roy Miller’s tremendous highs and memorable lows with New York Red Bulls
The Costa Rican international lifted two Supporters’ Shield titles with the franchise. This included that all-important first one in 2013. Miller was able to navigate his way through the numerous modifications made every year for most of this decade. Those were also not exclusive to just the lineup. The defender would play for three different head coaches. Each had their own unique views and tactics.
Through it all he was able to contribute. Even if those contributions were not always of the positive variety.
Born in San José, Miller began his professional career with Cartaginés in his native Costa Rica. He made the jump to Europe in 2005. The left-back would play several seasons in the Norwegian top flight, before a short stint at Swedish club Örgryte. It was during this period that he caught the attention of Hans Backe, who was on his way to become the Red Bulls’ new manager in 2010.
Never ones to shy away from adding a player from a Scandinavian league, Backe and New York signed Miller to boost the backline ahead of a pivotal season. After a poor run in 2009, the Red Bulls modified the roster and moved into their brand-new arena in Harrison. Miller was a part of it all. He helped to return the franchise to the MLS Cup Playoffs and finish first in the Eastern Conference.
He was skillful on the ball and effective in the attack when getting further up the field. The type of player that would grab fans’ eyes when he was on the move. An unpredictable feeling would take over. Everything from ecstasy to agony could be on the horizon quite quickly.
Alongside star names such as Thierry Henry and Rafa Márquez, Miller found a different way to stand out. His decision making made supporters furious. A truly frustrating week manifested itself in November of 2012.
“The ball still hasn’t landed.”
New York was set to battle D.C. United in the Eastern Conference semifinals, as the Atlantic Cup rivalry found itself poised for the postseason once again. Previous occasions all had United advancing. But something felt different about this meeting. With Henry and Kenny Cooper leading the way up front, there was a confidence within the group and amongst the fans.
The effects of Hurricane Sandy would change around the scheduling. A massive snowfall would delay kickoff for the second leg. Even Mother Nature seemed to sense the impending doom.
In the first game at RFK Stadium, Miller’s own-goal gave D.C. a 1-0 advantage. Backe’s squad was able to find an equalizer though, with all to play for in the second leg at Red Bull Arena. But New York was in serious trouble, after Nick DeLeon put United ahead 2-1 on aggregate late in the second half. Time was ticking by, but suddenly a lifeline appeared. The Red Bulls had a free kick, and it was in an opportune position.
Top of the penalty area, about 20 yards from goal. Less than two minutes remained in stoppage time. It was a moment where one would assume that Henry would be the hero. The one to save the team from elimination. Instead, up stepped Roy Miller to send a shot hurdling towards pretty much anything except the back of the net. D.C. moved on to the conference finals.
It was a memory that would linger throughout the offseason, an unfortunate snapshot of a defender trying and failing in a do-or-die situation. It would be followed up by a decision that can still cause headaches if you think about it for too long.
“Did he really just say that?”
The second game of the 2013 MLS season saw New York travel to face the San Jose Earthquakes. Midfielder Eric Alexander gave the Red Bulls a 1-0 first-half lead, but the wheels were beginning to come off late in the match.
Adam Jahn leveled the score at 1-1 with less than ten minutes remaining, and Miller had something absolutely remarkable up his sleeve. The Earthquakes won a penalty thanks to a handball on his part, and striker Chris Wondolowski was at the spot. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles made the save and rescued a point, but focus immediately went to referee Ricardo Salazar.
Miller had encroached into the penalty area, allowing Wondolowski to try again. On the second attempt, he did not miss and San Jose would earn a 2-1 victory. After the game, things somehow got more bizarre, as Miller stated that he intentionally moved into the box during Wondo’s kick. His logic was flawed at best.
“I did it on purpose with the thought that Wondolowski would miss. Simply, I wasn’t in agreement with the situation that was going on and the penalty kick being given, because for me, the handball didn’t have to be called but some refs call it and some don’t. I did it so that if [Wondolowski] made it, he would have to do it again and then he missed. I had the unfortunate luck that Luis saved the initial attempt.”
Even more unfortunate luck came with the fact that even if Wondo had scored, Miller’s theory of a second attempt would not have taken place. At this point, fans had quite a bit of difficulty trying to comprehend what they were seeing and hearing from the left-back. The year ended on a high note though, as New York captured their first-ever Supporters’ Shield.
Miller would see his minutes decline in the coming years, especially as Kemar Lawrence became a fixture for the Red Bulls’ backline. He joined Costa Rican powerhouse Deportivo Saprissa in 2016, before spending the past two seasons with the Portland Timbers. Miller was released by Portland earlier this month.
Few players were a part of Supporters’ Shield titles in both 2013 and 2015, and Roy Miller is one of them. A player who could create magic and madness on the field, his journey with the New York Red Bulls was a wild one. Now at 34, it is unclear what Miller’s next step will be. Though whatever it is, it may be worth keeping an eye on.