|Miller's goal: Keep Charlotte Independence defense organized|
|Jacks unbeaten in September with him in net|
|Published Saturday, September 22, 2018 10:00 pm|
MATTHEWS—Brandon Miller is the playmaker the Charlotte Independence need right now.
Charlotte’s goalkeeper has started each of their four USL games in September, during which time they are unbeaten. He replaced Andrew Dykstra, who promoted to the MLS Colorado Rapids, following a 6-2 loss at North Carolina F.C. at the end of August. He’s provided a steady presence for the Independence as the regular season draws to a close.
“I wanted to come in and try to provide a bit of stability,” Miller said following Saturday’s 1-1 draw with New York. “We were in a stretch where we needed wins. We needed points. The timing was decent. We got some key guys back from injury. We got a big win against Nashville [to start the unbeaten run]. That spurred us on. For me, it’s just trying to focus, and help the team get the three points right now.”
Miller broke his left thumb during a preseason training session. While it did not require surgery, he did wear a splint, which limited what he could do with the ball.
“I took a shot—just one of those times where you lose focus for a second,” Miller said. “Took a shot straight off my thumb, and ended up breaking it. It’s not something that happens often, but it was unfortunate in that way. It was about a six-week recovery. It was tough getting back into it. Trying to get back into the flow of training—competitiveness, sharpness in goal, but I feel confident in goal right now.”
Said defender Bilal Duckett: “When you do the little things right constantly, even when you are injured, or you are away from the group, guys notice—especially the younger, more impressionable guys. He is meticulous in his preparation and in his craft. They have to learn from that. Guys who he competes against have to take notice as well, ‘this guy is putting in a lot of work. I have to put in just as much to match it.”
Miller made his Charlotte debut in April when Dykstra joined Colorado as a backup to Zac MacMath. The Independence (9-11-10), who stand 3-2-3 in league play with Miller in goal, sits 12th in the USL East with 37 points with four games remaining in the regular season.
“Brandon is a calming presence in goal,” coach Mike Jeffries said. “He does a good job of keeping things organized, and rarely gets rattled. What he has provided for us over the last few games is he has made big plays. He made those saves that have kept us ahead, or kept us in a game. [Saving] a penalty against Charleston is a good example. That goes in, it’s 2-0, and it’s probably a different night for us.”
Being Charlotte’s No. 2 proved an adjustment for Miller, who won the 2015 USL championship with the Rochester Rhinos, and earned Goalkeeper of the Year.
“It’s been a bit of a transition for me,” he said. “The last two, three years, I’ve been used to being the No. 1, and going into each game as that No. 1, with that confidence. Being called in at random times is just something I’ve had to adjust to. It didn’t go so well midseason. We had a few bad results. I’ve been focusing on what I can do in training, and make it as competitive as possible, so when it gets to the game, it can translate over.”
Said Duckett, who played with Miller in Rochester prior to the 2015 season: “He has won a championship at this level before, so he knows what it takes. He’s a guy, who much to his credit, has been incredibly professional throughout the season, having been a starter, having been goalkeeper of the year, and having to be our No. 2 for quite some time. He never once dropped his head. He never once stopped competing. Some of that hunger and desire has been instilled into our starting group when he is playing.”
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