Q&A: MLS First-Round Selection and Former U-20 MNT Defender Eric Miller
Defender Eric Miller, who has previously played for the Development Academy’s Minnesota Thunder and recently the U.S. Under-20 Men’s National Team, was selected fifth overall by the Montreal Impact in the 2014 Major League Soccer SuperDraft on Jan. 16. ussoccer.com caught up with Miller about the draft, the benefits he gained from the U-20s and his professional future.
ussoccer.com: Congratulations on your draft selection with the Montreal Impact. Run us through what that day was like.
Eric Miller: “Draft Day was a pretty surreal experience. MLS did a fantastic job of putting on a huge show for it. It was really fun to see all the supporters groups there chanting, and it was just a great atmosphere. Sitting in the crowd, I was incredibly anxious. I really had no idea where I was going to end up, and I definitely had no idea that Montreal was interested enough in me to trade up to get me. After getting picked, the next 5-10 minutes were a blur of interviews and meeting people, and I was just so excited that I could hardly take it all in.”
ussoccer.com: Did you have any inclination that there was some interest in you early in the draft?
EM: “I had some strong indication that there was some interest in me, especially after the Combine. But with the draft, you never know where you are going to fall. You really don't have too much of an indication where you will end up because so much changes on Draft Day.”
ussoccer.com: What was the immediate reaction among your circle of friends, family and former teammates?
EM: “The outpouring of support I got from my family, friends and former teammates was incredibly humbling. The moment right when I got drafted, I could already hear my phone buzzing almost non-stop in my pocket from texts from my friends and family. I was really overwhelmed by all the support I have received from the people who helped me along the way.”
ussoccer.com: How do you feel your MLS Combine went, and did that solidify your stock heading into Draft Day?
EM: “I think the Combine went pretty well for me, personally. I think I might have actually boosted my stock a little bit there. I don’t think I was incredibly strongly rated after our college season at Creighton didn’t go as well as we would have hoped, and I think after playing fairly well at the Combine, I may have moved up a little bit on some draft boards.”
ussoccer.com: What are you most excited about now that you’re in MLS?
EM: “One of the things I am looking forward to most is playing against all the great players in MLS, especially guys like Thierry Henry, Robbie Keane and Jermain Defoe. And for me, being an American, it will be pretty humbling to share a field with Michael Bradley, Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan and all the other great U.S. National Team players playing in MLS. I also can’t wait to see all my friends I have made in my career and to play against their MLS teams.”
ussoccer.com: Have you had a chance to reflect on the journey to this point, through your club and college days, and the highs and lows along the way?
EM: “I haven't really had too much time to reflect on things, as it has been such a whirlwind of a few weeks for me. I hope I don't have to reflect too much on my career for a long time, but getting through a couple small injuries last fall and still being able to earn a contract is obviously very rewarding for me. It has been great to see how many former teammates and coaches have reached out to me, and I guess that put in perspective how long the road has been to get here.”
ussoccer.com: Even though you did not play in the 2013 FIFA U-20 World Cup and had an injury in qualifying, what was last year like playing with that
EM: “The U-20 experience was still phenomenal. I played in games in the Milk Cup and Toulon Tournament against some really great players, and we had so many great experiences. The CONCACAF final in front of 55,000 fans, making a lot of great friends, and getting a jersey with my name on the back are definitely some of my personal highlights, but there are too many to name. Tab Ramos and the whole staff were so professional. I learned more in that 18-month cycle than I did in the rest of my career, probably.”
ussoccer.com: Can you tell us a little bit about what the culture was like among the U-20 defenders, specifically, and how did competing with the likes
of Shane O’Neill or DeAndre Yedlin help you?
EM: “I think our U-20 defender culture was very strong, just like the entire team. It was great to learn from how professional those guys were, and to play with guys who are playing every week in MLS was great for me. I became pretty close with Caleb Stanko (2013 team captain and alum of the Academy’s Vardar SC), and it was just great to work hard every day and enjoy those experiences with teammates who were also good friends.”
ussoccer.com: What was your favorite moment with the U-20s?
EM: “I think it had to be the CONCACAF final against Mexico in front of 55,000 hostile fans in Puebla. We really tested them and played a great game. And we maybe should have won.”
ussoccer.com: You have mentioned that the international setting helped with your consistency on the field. How did the training regimen and environment
bring that element out of your game?
EM: “The thing it helped me with the most – and Tab drilled this in every camp we were at – was that you have to show up every time you go out to play. I watched guys like Wil Trapp and Cody Cropper and really just absorbed how professional they were, how even on rest days they still took complete care of their bodies and were always focused on how to improve their games. Just watching those guys and being part of that culture for the two years was probably the biggest thing for me.”
ussoccer.com: What is your primary focus now as you make the transition to the pros?
EM: “I really just want to go into preseason and take things one day at a time. I think physically I still have some maturing to do, but hopefully that comes with time. I have too many things I want to improve on to list, so I am just going to keep working hard, keep plugging away and see where that takes me.”