Matt Miazga's brief stint as a regular starter for Vitesse appears to be over for the moment. Injury to senior center-back Maikel van der Werff handed Miazga a place in the starting lineup, but also coincided with a precipitous decline in the club's form. The former New York Red Bulls defender started four consecutive league games in Eredivisie, and Vitesse picked up just two points in that stretch. Head coach Henk Fraser turned to Arnold Kruiswijk to bolster the center of defense, returning Miazga to the bench - but results have only improved since van der Werff has recovered from injury and reclaimed his place.
Vitesse has won its last two league games with van der Werff back on the back line. Miazga has had one injury-time substitute appearance for the first team in its last four league outings. The American has slipped back down the depth chart as coach Fraser focuses on turning around his team's form and (it is rumored) protecting his own job.
So Miazga has to take whatever chances he can get to re-assert his claim to time on the field. One such chance: Vitesse's round-of-16 KNVB Cup match against Jodan Boys on December 14.
Jodan Boys play in the fifth tier of Dutch soccer - outside the professional leagues - and were not expected to provide a substantial challenge to a top-flight opponent. Coach Fraser took the opportunity to test several players from the fringes of his squad, including debuts for 'keeper Michael Tornes and defender Lassana Faye. Under the circumstances, it would have been concerning if Miazga had not started the match.
Fortunately, he did.
Opstelling #Vitesse vs @jodanboys @knvbbeker #vitjod pic.twitter.com/st5Nzpqm03— Vitesse (@MijnVitesse) December 14, 2016
And Miazga made sure his appearance in a routine win over lower-league opposition would not quickly be forgotten: he opened the scoring in Vitesse's 4-0 rout.
14' GOAL! Matt Miazga kan vrij aannemen in het zestienmetergebied en treft doel: 1-0 #Vitesse #vitjod pic.twitter.com/KiRWpNQfII— Vitesse (@MijnVitesse) December 14, 2016
Miazga is not currently the sort of center-back who often appears on the score sheet, but he picked a good moment for his first goal for Vitesse (and, indeed, his first senior club goal since transferring to Chelsea from RBNY back in January, 2016). Dutch club soccer is about to take its winter break. Vitesse will play Feyenoord on December 17 (Miazga can be assumed to be watching that game from the bench) and will then be out of action until mid-January.
Miazga will at least have a more cheering memory of his first few months in Dutch soccer to take home for the holidays than had previously been expected.