CLEVELAND, Ohio – When Graham Zusi’s free kick floated toward an unmarked Matt Miazga with two minutes remaining in normal time, the United States central defender could hardly believe it.
Here was his chance to send the United States to the top of Group B in the 2017 CONCACAF Gold Cup, scoring his first international goal and the last one in a 3-0 win over Nicaragua at FirstEnergy Stadium on Saturday.
“It was kind of too good to be true,” Miazga said of his header. “I wasn’t really marked. The player [Luis Fernando Copete] who was marking me all game got a red card. I was free. He played a phenomenal ball. He floated it in. I saw it all the way and I just guided it into the goal.”
Miazga, who played last season at Vitesse in the Dutch Eredivisie on loan from Chelsea, hadn’t competed in a match for two months. Dax McCarty, a former teammate with the New York Red Bulls, is excited with Miazga’s development.
“He’s matured a lot,” McCarty said. “He reads the game pretty well. Back when he was at Red Bull, he got a couple of unfortunate red cards because he just lost his head there for a little bit and made a couple of rash decisions. I think his decision-making has gotten a lot better since he’s been over in Holland. You can tell he’s refined his game a bit too.”
Since returning to the helm in November 2016, U.S. head coach Bruce Arena had not given a cap to Miazga until Sunday. The former LA Galaxy and Red Bulls manager was happy with what saw.
“I was very impressed with Matt Miazga,” United States coach Bruce Arena said. “I thought he did very well.”