Dutch soccer is back from its winter break. Vitesse and Matt Miazga got the second half of their season off to an encouraging start with a 3-1 home win over Twente. Both teams are in a group currently occupying the bottom half of the Eredivisie's top 10, but with some hope of cracking the top five if the rest of the season goes well. Three points saw Vitesse hop above Twente, settling in at seventh in the table, two points behind Utrecht.
The result also helped Vitesse put further distance between it and a troubling collapse in form that saw the team suffer six straight league games without a win and gave rise to rumors head coach Henk Fraser would be replaced. Since the beginning of December, however, Vitesse has now won three of its last four league outings and looks to be back to challenging for a place at the upper end of the table.
Miazga too had an encouraging return to the field, subbing in to the match in the 84th minute. Even a fleeting appearance is good news for the player, who seemed to have tumbled back down the depth chart after a brief stint as a starter.
Loaned out to Vitesse from Chelsea at the end of August, the 21-year-old was immediately a regular in Fraser's match-day squads. And when Maikel van der Werff was injured, Miazga won the job to start as the senior center back's replacement. Unfortunately, his arrival in the starting lineup coincided with the team's slump in form:
Vitesse since Matt Miazga replaced Maikel van der Werff: DDLL.— Lars (@VitesseCFC) November 6, 2016
Miazga was returned to the bench as coach Fraser shuffled his squad in search of better results. The Chelsea loanee's last start for Vitesse was November 6. Since then, he'd had one injury-time appearance in the team's last five league games, prior to subbing in against Twente.
It was an appearance dictated by the specific circumstances of the game, so it is premature to suggest that Miazga has impressed during the club's extended winter-break training sessions and worked his way back into Fraser's confidence. Vitesse was cruising to victory with a 3-0 lead when Twente won a penalty to trim the score to 3-1 in the 77th minute. Next, Lewis Baker was sent off in the 81st. Fraser grumbled post-game that his team had let their visitors back into the game after taking a three-goal lead. Miazga was brought in to shut the door on Twente and ensure the game was won.
Matt Miazga playing as defensive midfielder, Yeini & Foor completing midfield. Van Bergen & Zhang up front.— Lars (@VitesseCFC) January 15, 2017
Assuming his team doesn't often threaten to lose its grip on a three-goal lead at the end of a match, maybe Miazga doesn't have many more appearances for Vitesse ahead of him. Or maybe he has a new value to Fraser as a utility man rather than the fourth-choice center back he appeared to be prior to the winter break.
Next up for Vitesse is a trip to play Groningen on January 21.