BY ADAM SERRANO
Ryan Miller's name isn't one many would have expected to receive a U.S. national team call-up a month ago, but considering how far he has come in his career over the past two years, nothing should come as too much of a surprise.
Miller is currently in camp with the United States ahead of the January 22nd friendly with Chile at the Home Depot Center. After a disappointing start to his career in MLS, Miller found success in Sweden, which led to his surprising call-up. He joins a camp where no player holds more than 7 caps for the U.S. national team. The camp may be made up of many new faces, but Miller's inclusion was still a surprise to many, including himself.
"It's a dream come true and its great to play with a group like this. I'm soaking everything in and learning as much as I can," said Miller. "It makes it a lot easier that this is my first camp, if you were walking in with the World Cup squad, you'd be intimidated, but everyone here is in the same situation so we're all having fun with it."
The Illinois native was a star for Notre Dame finishing his career with 86 straight starts for the Fighting Irish, a school record. Miller's success at Notre Dame led to him being drafted by the Columbus Crew in the third round of the 2008 MLS Draft ahead of players like Geoff Cameron and Brandon McDonald. Unfortunately for Miller, he did not experience success in MLS as he bounced around the league playing for the Crew and D.C. United, making zero appearances in league play. Miller's career in MLS ended after being waived by D.C. United in March of 2009.
After his stint with MLS, Miller headed East, to Sweden where he joined Swedish Superettan — second division — side Ljungskile SK. After impressing with Ljungskile, Miller joined Halmstads BK of the Allsvenskan where he has appeared in 26 matches for the Swedish first division club while battling a nagging knee injury for most of the season.
U.S. head coach Bob Bradley is no stranger to Miller, having seen him play a few ages above his son Michael on the Chicago Sockers youth club.
"Last year he established himself as a player who played week in and week out. He's an athletic outside back with good speed," said Bradley. "Now I just need to see how far he's come in all these years. There are some good starting points, just in terms of his mentality on the field and his athleticism and the fact that I think his time in Sweden has helped him."
Miller will have his opportunity to show Bradley how far that he has come in the last year during Saturday's match against Chile. The right back has performed admirably during camp and looks likely to play a role off the bench against the South American team. To have the opportunity to state his case for the national team shows just how far Miller has come in the last few years.
The fleet attacking right back feels that much of his recent ascension in his professional and national team career is due to his ability to get back on the field. During his brief time in MLS, Miller was forced to the bench behind MLS veterans like Frankie Hejduk and Bryan Namoff before eventually departing for Scandinavia.Through all the recent trials, Miller harbors no ill will towards MLS or those who were placed in front of him. He remains just a player looking to make the most of his recent shot at success.
"To be honest, it was just about getting an opportunity. As a young player, I was behind some great players so there is no hard feelings on that because they deserve it," said Miller. "It was just about me finding the right opportunity, but I found it and now I'm here so I'm really happy about it."