Miller's meltdown hands the game to San Jose
March 11, 2013

San Jose New York
03.10.13 · League

If you thought Metro could not outdo themselves after last Sunday's second-half collapse in Portland, you've grossly underestimated the "talents" of Metro's inept left back Roy Miller. In the final ten minutes of the game, Miller had a hand in both of San Jose's goals, erasing a one-goal Metro advantage that appeared secure.

As a result of the injury to Juninho that was made public earlier in the week, coach Mike Petke changed the look of the team into a more traditional 4-4-2. Up front Titi Henry partnered with Fabian Espindola; Irish journeyman Jonny Steele took Juninho's spot at left midfield while Eric Alexander earned his first Metro start in place of the toothless Ruben Bover on the right. Stalwarts Dax McCarty and Tim Cahill remained in central midfield, ahead of Miller, Heath Pearce, Jamison Olave, and Brandon "Ninja" Barklage, who returned at right back over Kosuke Kimura.

Metro settled down after weathering the early storm, and in the 17th minute they went ahead through Alexander, the unheralded offseason acquisition from Portland. Steele found Henry just outside the box, and the French superstar lofted an exquisite cross with his left foot that was headed by former Metro Jason Hernandez directly into Alexander's path. Unmarked, the Hoosier one-timed his shot past the helpless Jon Busch.

Other than another Luis Robles mistake in the 36th minute that nearly led to a turnover in the penalty box, San Jose never looked like threatening through the halftime break. For most of the second half, it was the same story: other than when Metro conspired to sabotage themselves with poor clearances, bad passing, or errant dribbling in the defensive third, the game and three points on the road seemed well within reach.

Enter the embattled Miller. By and large, fans expected his departure in the offseason, if not due to his gruesome playoff performances, then as a result of his ties to the previous regime. Come opening day, however, Miller was in the lineup, once again starting at left back -- to the chagrin of many long-time observers. While his play on the road last Sunday was typically poor, he saved his best for tonight's match.

In the 83rd minute, as the finish line was in sight for Metro, San Jose moved the ball down the left flank, with Ramiro Corrales eventually picking out a streaking Sam Cronin as he headed toward the endline. Cronin took a touch and lofted a cross to the far post, where Miller let Adam Jahn slip past him and fire the equalizer home.

Miller wasn't done yet, as his next blunder cost Metro the remaining point. Defending a corner kick in injury time, Miller flew into the air with his arms raised as though they were blades on a helicopter, and made contact with the ball in the penalty box. Chris Wondolowski's resulting penalty kick was miraculously saved by Robles, and Metro had improbably rescued another point on the road... until the referee blew his whistle for encroachment. It was a flashback to last year's playoff decider against DC, this time Miller the only Metro foolish enough to sprint into the box well before Wondolowski had so much as contacted the ball. Arguments from the players understandably fell on deaf ears, and Wondolowski predictably buried his second chance, dooming Metro to the loss.

And so, we come upon Petke's first challenge as manager: what to do with the underachieving Costa Rican? Despite his hints that he prefers to play center back, it would seem the best course of action would be to put Pearce in Miller's left back spot and return former vice captain S. Markus Holgersson to the starting eleven. Will we see Connor Lade's first minutes of the season in Miller's place instead? Is there some other permutation that Petke will opt for? Whatever plan he comes up with this week in training, it had better be the right one because the hated Scum visit Red Bull Arena for Metro's home opener on Saturday.

Lineup: Robles, Miller, Pearce, Olave, Barklage, McCarty, Cahill, Steele, Alexander, Espindola, Henry. Subs: Bover, Kimura, Moreno.

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