The Red Bulls head coach came to the aide of his left back in a Tuesday morning conference call. Expected. Wrong. But expected.
First thing's first, Head Coach Mike Petke coming to the aide of his left back, Roy Miller, is expected. It's what good coaches do. They show faith in their players. They instill a "win as a team, lose as a team" mentality that gets the guys to play for each other, a stated goal of the Petke regime.
He told the virtual press scrum this morning that "this is not about Roy Miller" and that "we're a team from the goalkeeper up to the forwards and all the guys sitting on the bench. We win together and we lose together. It's not a cliche."
But let's get one thing clear: This is about Roy Miller. Petke won't say it, but it is.
In 99.9 percent of cases, calling for a player's head after a poor performance is either the knee jerkiest knee jerk reaction possible or simple, blatant hackery on the part of us media types. But in very simple terms, one man out of 11, Miller, lost the game for the Red Bulls Sunday.
That performance comes after a season-ending playoff series that saw Miller score a (rather spectacular) own goal, then stepping up to take the series-ending free kick over the league's highest paid player and living legend, Thierry Henry. And when he's not doing something jaw-droppingly idiotic, it's the simple things that he just can't do well, like getting back on defense.
The flip side of winning and losing as a team is that you have the entire team on the same page, working together to get three points. Sunday night there were only 10.
Really, there's not a lot you can find out about a team like the Red Bulls this early in the year. Have certain things -- dropping leads in the second half comes to mind almost immediately -- set off alarms? Yes. But they're not the state of things after two games. They're kinks to be worked out.
But Miller isn't a kink to be worked out. This is a pattern that's been established pretty much since he got here. When you have a player suffering from the frequency of brain flatulence Miller does, something has got to give. When he's not encroaching on penalty kicks or executing flying side kicks for own goals, he's out of position or he's ball watching.
These are forgivable mistakes for Connor Lade or Ruben Bover or Amando Moreno or Ian Christianson or Michael Bustamante so long as they learn from them. But when a 28-year-old, who takes up an international slot and $112,495 (plus a yearly raise) in salary cap space, makes those mistakes they're not. They're not just going to clear up with some training or video work. These are habits that aren't going to break.