Eric Miller photo by Tim Sullivan/For Club and Country
Nashville SC began the year with a re-entry draft pick at right back. While Eric Miller didn’t finish the year as the starting right back, he still played a key role intermittently for the Boys in Gold.
Other editions: No minutes and gone • No minutes and back • Jimmy Medranda • Brayan Beckeles • Handwalla Bwana • Jack Maher • David Accam • Alan Winn • Matt LaGrassa • Eric Miller • Derrick Jones • Jhonder Cádiz • Taylor Washington • Abu Danladi • Jalil Anibaba • Dominique Badji • Daniel Ríos • Tah Brian Anunga • Alex Muyl • Hany Mukhtar
Miller came to Nashville with a relatively modest résumé: two years with Montreal Impact, three with Colorado Rapids, and two with Minnesota United (back in his home state), never as a full-time starter but always as a valued contributor. In the season prior to his arrival in Nashville, though, United dealt him to New York City FC in the summer window.
He was of limited use (just six appearances, though five of them were starts) to NYCFC, and Nashville picked him up in the re-entry draft. Despite that, NSC had traded up to get him in re-entry, so the expectation was that he’d at least be a significant member of a rotation.
7 appearances • 489 minutes
0 goals, 1 shot (0.32 xG)
0 assists, 0 key passes
168/229 passing (73.4% • 73.2% expected)
8.2% of touches on-field
+0.01 Goals added per 96 minutes versus average fullback
|Eric Miller 2020|
|Dribbling G+||Fouling G+||Interrupting G+||Passing G+||Receiving G+||Shooting G+|
Had Miller been beaten out by Brayan Beckeles – the Honduran had clearly been brought in to be the first-choice player, despite his age – that’d be one thing. However, Beckeles’s age caught up with him, and while Miller began the year as the starter, he was beaten out by rookie Alistair Johnston as the First-XI lock starter (when Johnston was available).
Miller’s iffy performance in the season-opening Atlanta United game (and the scapegoting he got after the Portland Timbers match – he deserved criticism, but bore much more than he deserved) soured fans – and possibly the coaching staff – on him in a big way, and by the time the season resumed, Johnston had developed enough to pass him on the depth chart. The combination of external circumstances certainly didn’t help. But Miller’s downfall came largely because he was far-from-perfect in the two opening games.
He was steady and workmanlike when he popped back up after Johnston’s red card against SKC – and closed the year with three starts in the final seven regular-season games – but he wasn’t good enough to force his way past a rookie after being given the first chance to start the year, and that means there’s a natural cap on the grade.
Miller remains in negotiations with the club, the lone player from the 2020 roster who wasn’t either brought back (whether on his previous contract, an exercised option, or extended), or cut completely loose. Nashville SC likes him enough that the front office wants him back. But only enough that bringing him back on cap-friendly terms makes sense.
It wouldn’t be a surprise to see the sides come to an agreement, but it also wouldn’t surprise if he decides to explore the free-agency market to see if there are better options out there, either.
Even if he does return to Nashville SC, the new normal (or not-so-new) is that he’s a backup option to Johnston at right back, while also having utility as a guy who can play one of the CB roles or as a wingback in a back-five – he did both in that stretch run of the year. Entering the season with the expectation that he’s a depth option with some upside, cutting out the Big Mistake, and getting some playing time for an NSC side that takes a step forward in results would be a successful year.