The acquisition of young American center back Matt Miazga in January was greeted with eyebrows raised to similar heights as when Chelsea acquired the likes of Michael Hector and Papy Djilobodji six months earlier. That Miazga actually made twice as many appearances and played well over 100-times as many minutes as those two combined should be a cause for celebration, but of course it isn't. Hector hasn't actually played for Chelsea yet (though he did impress Hiddink in training) while Djilobodji had exactly one (1) glorious minute of League Cup action before being farmed out to Werder Bremen where he courted controversy and then saved their season.
But back to Miazga.
He made his debut, at long last, two months after signing, away to Aston Villa. Granted, Villa are all sorts of terrible, but Miazga, after some early nervousness, didn't look completely out of place and, combined with the veteran Branislav Ivanovic, managed to pitch a shutout. The 20-year-old looked well up for the challenge of playing against pseudo-Andy Carroll Rudy Gestede, which, successful or not, is not something that can always be said about others, like, say, Gary Cahill.
And speaking of being well up for challenges...
"It's definitely tough, but it's part of the game and part of the challenge. Going to the Premier League as a young player and going to a big club, it's a challenge that I'm embracing that is making me a better player and a better person. It's definitely a good learning process for me, so I'm just going to continue to work and establish myself to see how far I could go."
"I think you just have to continue to stay positive and keep fighting and training hard, because coming from where I was playing a lot of minutes to a transfer to another club, you have to start over again and work your way in. You're at a big club with world-class players, so you have to work your way in and it's definitely frustrating sometimes not playing or not making the bench, but that's part of the process and part of football. You just have to continue working to try to establish yourself."
His efforts in his debut were rewarded with congratulatory messages from national team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann as well as a start against Swansea City the following weekend. Unfortunately, Miazga had a bit of rough first half, including a major error that turned out to gift the game's only goal to Swansea. Hiddink yanked him off at half time, put him firmly in the doghouse, locked the door, then bolted it, then threw away the keys, then booted the doghouse into a black hole. It's a good thing Miazga gave this interview because for all intents and purposes he had disappeared off the face of the planet at that moment, lost in a four-dimensional tesseract trying to communicate through love and gravity. Certainly a bit harsh from the interim manager, this treatment, especially since he then opted to play John Obi Mikel as a center back more than once instead.
But Hiddink's now gone, Conte's coming in and hope floats. Plus, Miazga's got a summer's worth of possible international action to look forward to, as the US Men's National Team will take part in next month's Copa America Centenario.
"I'm not focused on (my club future) right now. I'm focused on the national team. When the Premier League starts again and the seasons starts with preseason, obviously we'll have to discuss it, but my goal right now is with the national team and then I'll focus on the preseason."
"My goal is to train as hard as I can to show coach I'm deserving of a spot. The Copa America roster is not set yet, so I'm going to continue to try and play fast, think quick and play good football to show I can play at a high level. I've been training with a bunch of great players and had a couple of games in the Premier League, so I'll try to translate that over here and show what I can do."
-Matt Miazga; source: Soccer By Ives
I certainly wouldn't bet against Miazga getting consigned to another proverbial black hole next season, and hitting the loan circuit as many others before him have. But he's got his head on straight and clearly has the desire and will to succeed. So maybe anything's possible. Go and get 'em, Captain Miazgamerica!