Matt Miazga has been on quite the ride for the past 15 months. After helping the U-20 MNT qualify for and then reach the quarterfinals of the 2015 FIFA World Cup, he joined the U-23 MNT for the Olympic Qualifying Championship, which has put the team within two games of clinching a berth at the Olympic Games in Rio. He then made his senior team debut in a 2018 FIFA World Cup qualifier in November, and in January transferred to English Premier League giant Chelsea.
“This is something I’ve worked for my whole life,” Miazga said this week from Miami, where the U-23 MNT began camp in preparation for the Olympic Qualifying Playoff against Colombia. “I’ve envisioned myself and believed I could I achieve all this so far. Obviously I have a lot more goals that I want to achieve, so I’m going to continue to work hard.”
Miazga was with the Men’s National Team at the annual January Camp when his transfer from the New York Red Bulls to Chelsea was completed.
“Everyone on the club has been very welcoming, so it’s been an easy transition for me on and off the field. The level of training is very high so I feel like I’m getting better and better. I know it’s a long process and you have to be patient. And if and when the opportunity comes, I’ll be ready.”
Within weeks of arriving, he made the game-day roster for Chelsea’s UEFA Champions League Round of 16 match against Paris Saint-Germain on February 16. Although he has yet to make his Blues’ debut, the experience left him wanting to work even harder.
“It’s something I’ve always wanted and dreamed of,” he said of being with a club in the Champions League. “And to have it happen relatively early in my career is something awesome. It’s something that I was so close to – I felt it – and it’s given me even more motivation to get on the pitch and play.”
Now the tall center back has joined his U-23 MNT teammates with a chance to reach another goal – make it to the Olympics. The team will face Colombia on Friday in Barranquilla in the first leg of the two-game series that will determine the final spot in Rio (5 p.m. ET, live on FS1 and Univision Deportes Network).
“Most of these guys have played in these types of games before. We’ll be well prepared,” Miazga said. “Coach Andi (Herzog) does a great job with the squad, instilling confidence in us and having a game plan, so we’ll be ready and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
Away goals are the first tiebreaker in the aggregate goal series, but that doesn’t mean the USA will be looking to settle in Barranquilla.
“Our approach is we go into a game and we go to win. We don’t go to draw or lose by ‘this’ amount of goals,” he said. “That’s the mentality and approach we have. It’s obviously two legs, so we have to find the right balance and know how to manage the game. But we’re going to go out there and give it our all and play positive football and go for the win.”
The return leg will be played on March 29 at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas at 8:30 p.m. CT and will be broadcast live on ESPN2, following the U.S. MNT’s World Cup Qualifying match against Guatemala at 6 p.m. CT. [TICKETS]