Q&A with Sporting KC defender Kyle Miller
Describe your first five months at Sporting KC since being selected in the MLS Supplementary Draft.
I’ve been here since January, and it’s been an awesome time. It’s also been a very tough time. I wasn’t offered a contract throughout the pre-season, and I suffered an injury in February that set me back a little bit. But my teammates have been great—they knew about my situation (as a trial player) and they’ve really supported me. I knew that if I just came to training with a good attitude and kept working hard, good things would come. And that’s what I’ve done for the last couple months.
What was Peter Vermes main message to you during your time as a trial player?
He told me a lot of things about how to improve as a player. Most of that was technical things—distribution from the back, one-on-one moves and entry balls. So after training I would stay on the field and work with the coaches on different technical skills. Once you get comfortable with the simple things, it makes the game much easier.
How helpful were the pre-season and Reserve League matches in showing your strengths to the coaching staff?
They were very helpful. I played my first reserve game in Arizona, and although I was a little out of shape, I played right back and felt very comfortable playing with the team. I’m a very versatile player—I can play right back, holding midfielder, or right winger—so I fit in well with the 4-3-3 system.
What are the biggest challenges of training daily with other professional players?
The practices are very, very intense. It’s a lot different than the college game. Every day, you’re fighting for your job. The first couple weeks especially were a little overwhelming and physically intense. It took a couple weeks for me to get used to the speed of the game.
How did your teammates help you during your time as a trial player?
They have been very supportive. I’ve become good friends with a lot of the rookies on the team. Some of them are finding it hard to get playing time, so we push ourselves a lot during practice. We keep encouraging each other to wait for our opportunities, because they will come.
Talk about the challenges of trying to break into the first team as a rookie.
This is one of the best teams in MLS right now. The first team has been very consistent and has stayed really healthy, so why change things? You should stick with what’s making you win. But I’m confident the reserves will get their chances. And once we do get the chance, we just have to impress Peter and the rest of the coaching staff. Until then, I’m just excited to keep winning.
What helped you prepare for your trial with Sporting KC?
I had a good career at Rockhurst University, but even before that I played on a lot of good teams—the Blue Valley Stars and the Sporting KC academy, coached by Jon Parry. When I was in high school, I told the coaches that my goal was to play professionally after college, and they said I could do it if I worked hard enough. At Rockhurst, I kept developing as a player and had a great four years there. I’m thankful for the belief and support the coaches have given me.
Talk about your time with the Sporting KC academy following your freshman season at Rockhurst University.
I played with the Sporting KC academy at the U-19 level (in 2009). That was the point where I knew I had a good chance of making it professionally because we trained competitively (at Swope Park) every day and even trained with the reserves a couple times. So that was a great experience and something I’ll never forget it my career.
What were your emotions when the coaching staff offered you a professional contract last month?
I didn’t see it coming. Peter didn’t really hint at it at all. After practice one day he approached me, and I froze up a bit. He said ‘You worked your butt off and we’d like to offer you a contract.’ When that happened, it was a shock—an awesome feeling.
What are your thoughts on Sporting KC’s style of play?
Our 4-3-3 system is very aggressive. We press when we don’t have the ball and we’re constantly working hard. So I fit really well into the system, being an aggressive player and able to play right back or right wing.
What is your preferred position, and what are your strengths as a player?
I like playing wide on the right, either right back or right wing. I probably prefer defense because that’s where I have played my whole life. But I like getting up and down the field. I’ve got a motor and I’m good with both feet, so I can play on the left or right side. I’m starting to develop more one-on-one moves, so I can create chances either beating a defender or getting down the line and crossing the ball. My biggest strengths are probably my aggressiveness and my one-on-one defending.
What is the most important thing you have learned since signing a professional contract?
Peter has stressed to me that this is my job. You’ve got to take it seriously. When I was drafted, I was kind of still in a college mindset. Sometimes I drifted in and out of the game, so Peter told me that this was my job and I had to start acting like a professional. So I took everything seriously and stayed extra focused in games and training, even during the little things like technical drills. I also stayed after training a lot, just to get more time on the field.
Is there less pressure now that you’ve earned a contract, or are you still playing with something to prove?
My mindset now is the same as it was before I signed my contract. I still come in with a positive attitude and I’m ready to work hard every day. Eventually I’d like to get into the first team. For that to happen, there are a lot of things I have to work on. The first team players move the ball really well. If you watch some of the drills in training, they are very cohesive and fluent. So I’m trying to improve my technical skills and my decision making.
Sporting KC now has six local players on its roster—how does this reflect on the club?
I think it’s awesome. The Kansas City area has grown for soccer so much, and I think it’s great that the club is investing in the local talent. It’s great for the young kids in the area. They can see that six of us have made it to the professional level. It tells them that if you work hard and dream big, you can make it.
Do you have any special pre-game routines or superstitions?
Since college, my pre-game meal has always been breakfast food. I did that before a game one time and ended up playing well, so I’ve done that ever since because I’m a little superstitious. Other than that, I like listening to music before games. Eminem before a game gets me pumped up.