Earlier this week, the Colorado Rapids and Minnesota United FC announced a trade, as defender Eric Miller and $50,000 in general allocation money were sent to Minnesota in exchange for midfielder Sam Nicholson and an international roster spot. ProSoccerUSA Minnesota correspondent Kyle Eliason sat down with Colorado correspondent Marco Cummings to get the Colorado perspective on the move.
What does Minnesota gain from this trade? What are some of Miller’s strengths?
Cummings: It’s no secret Minnesota’s defense has needed improvement since joining MLS last year. In Miller, United receives another piece of Colorado’s historically good 2016 defense (following the trade that brought in Marc Burch and Sam Cronin last season). But unlike the aging Cronin and Burch, Miller still has a lengthy professional career ahead of him at just 25 years old. During his time at Colorado, Miller showed an ability to slot in at either the fullback or centerback positions, without a drop in productivity. Therefore, his addition adds depth at either position for the Loons. Despite Colorado’s defense not being as strong last season, Miller shined often as the Rapids’ most consistent defender.
What are some of the negatives or “needs improvement” of Miller’s game?
Cummings: Miller isn’t the paciest player, particularly when playing as a fullback. I suspect this is why the Rapids didn’t see him as a fit for Anthony Hudson’s 3-5-2 system, which demands pace from its wingbacks. He also won’t contribute much from an attacking perspective, another quality Hudson has been looking for. In 53 league starts for Colorado, Miller only contributed one assist and nine shots (two on target). His lone goal for the Rapids came in U.S. Open Cup play against USL side Oklahoma City Energy FC.
Also, for a player that was brought in to shore up a back line with its fair share of injury concerns, Miller also dealt with his own injury concerns throughout his career. He hasn’t been seen participating in team-related training activities this season, with the Rapids listing him as having a calf injury (although this could have been a sign to his departure prior to the trade).
Who do you think won this trade and why?
Cummings: As far as immediate returns, Colorado is looking like an early winner. The Rapids are getting a young, healthy attacking talent in exchange for a player who hasn’t played this season and hasn’t fit into Hudson’s system.
However, when and if he is indeed healthy, Eric Miller has a larger body of work in MLS and has proven his ability as a defender in this league. He’ll shore up a Minnesota United defense that has struggled with both ability and versatility. As an added bonus, he should be an instant fan favorite as a Minnesota native and soon to be brother-in-law to Brent Kallman. His family ties (and previous playing experience) with Kallman should also help with on-field chemistry as well.
It’s an unknown how much playing time Nicholson will get in what is currently a deep midfield for Colorado. At 23-years-old, he’ll be the youngest midfielder for Colorado (although Hudson hasn’t shied away from playing youth).
I’d say this is a good move for Colorado, but the long-term potential looks advantageous for Minnesota.