Tyler Miller is off to a good start as a starting goalkeeper in MLS. With Los Angeles Football Club so far, he has four shutouts in nine starts, and has only lost two games.
The 25-year-old, who was the surprise top pick in LAFC’s expansion draft, seems to have established himself as the No. 1, and Honduran import Luis Lopez may struggle to crack the lineup.
But there’s one moment of Miller’s career he would almost certainly want back: Conceding a 45-yard half-volley on the left flank, from Zlatan Ibrahimovic in the Swede’s MLS debut.
Sorry to bring this up, but I think it’s worth talking about this for a moment, in light of LAFC’s next opponent, New York City FC.
The thing about Zlatan’s goal is that it was so audacious, no other player in MLS would have tried it. Some people pinned blame on Miller for being way out of position on the goal, but that’s pretty unfair — if no one is going to shoot a bomb, it’s unfair to expect a player to be dutifully standing on his line waiting to make the save there.
But Miller is an aggressive goalkeeper. It’s not unusual in this day and age — few goalkeepers, including in MLS, hang out on their line most of the time. Instead, they push out often, trying to cut off angles to improve their chances of stopping shots, or to prevent shots before they’re taken. The approach is risky, yes, as sometimes you get beat, badly. But the rationale makes sense. Better to come out and snuff out a shot from eight yards out than let the attacker get an almost open goal from five yards out because the GK is hanging out on his line, reactive to the chance.
So in context, Miller isn’t an outlier. But at the same time, other teams have noticed that Miller is extremely aggressive. Other teams have tried to beat him with lobs and speculative shots when he’s stuck in no-man’s land, they just haven’t succeeded like Ibrahimovic did.
Enter David Villa.
The 2016 MLS MVP scored a goal last year that is probably the only one in consideration for being as good as that goal from Zlatan:
Note that the goalkeeper he beat here was Philadelphia Union backstop Andre Blake, who was the defending MLS Goalkeeper of the Year at the time. Like with Miller, people who expect absolute perfection slammed Blake for not keeping Villa’s lob out of the net, but again, who would try a shot like that in MLS that would be on target?
All of this is to say, if Villa gets a chance on Sunday when NYCFC visit LAFC, no matter the spot, he’ll take it. And Miller needs to be ready, even if it seems impossible, lest he be posterized once again this season.
What do you think? Leave a comment below!