Artist on the pitch

Miller's love of soccer shows in his play

Central HIgh School soccer team captian Matt Miller dribbles around a defender.

Matt Miller settles the ball, glances at what’s in front of him. One opponent blocks his path, and a second is coming fast.

The Central senior then attacks. He taps the ball, then a second kick and the ball is by the defender, then Miller does a quick pirouette, leaving the defender at a standstill, suddenly in the trailing position.

As the second defender converges, Miller sees an open teammate and passes the ball to him.

Anytime the ball is away from Miller, opponents are in better shape.

Matt Miller is part tap dancer and part artist on the soccer field. His movements are smooth, quick and effortless. His easel is the field, and the soccer ball is the brush.

When Miller has the ball, everyone watches.

“It’s fun,” he said modestly. “I work hard, try to do my best all the time. I try to put the ball in the back of the net, and I try to dish it off as much as I can.”

A simplified but universal philosophy to soccer success.

The soft-spoken 17-year-old has been playing soccer since he was 4, but he truly fell in love with the sport as a freshman.

“That’s when I decided that is what I wanted to play, and now I want to play in college,” said Miller, who is being recruited by several NCAA Division II schools.

His senior year has been a struggle at times, and the inexperienced Warriors have been overmatched in a number of games. The Warriors are 2-7 in Southwestern League play and 5-9 overall heading into tonight’s regular-season final against Grand Junction.

But there’s little frustration on Miller’s face.

“My senior season has been a lot of fun. We’re not having the best season, but it’s not too bad, it’s a good time,” he said.

An all-league selection as a junior, Miller is a scoring machine with six hat tricks on the season. Miller has 23 of the Warriors’ 33 goals this year.

Every opposing coach knows there’s one key to beating Central: Control the quick, fancy-footwork kid with the curly, light-brown hair.

In a recent game against Fruita Monument, Miller settled the ball, then quickly was surrounded by three defenders.

He expects that kind of defense.

“It’s just what they do,” he said with a smile. “It’s their strategy to try and win a game. It’s just part of the game.”

Central coach Doug Beach said almost every opponent double-teams Miller. And when they don’t, the result can be seen on the scoreboard.

Against Montrose, the Indians won 11-4 but they gave Miller some open space.

“Montrose didn’t double-team him, and he scored four goals,” Beach said.

Fruita Monument tagged Miller throughout the game and won 4-0.

For Beach, it’s a pleasure to coach a special player and person.

“He’s courteous, he’s respectful, and he’s determined to do well on the field and in the classroom,” Beach said. “The way he handles himself on and off the field makes me very proud.”

What impresses Beach about Miller’s skills?

“His ball control and his ability to see the field, his vision is awesome, and his acceleration when he has the ball is incredible,” he said.

For Miller, it’s the ball-control part of the game that he loves. As all premier soccer players do, Miller works on his game year-round, playing on the high school team, then a club team. He said he “juggles” virtually every day, even in the offseason.

It shows.

He doesn’t do anything special when he’s juggling, just working on ball control and footwork. It’s like the ball is on a string when Miller keeps the ball airborne, popping it from foot to foot.

Becoming a graceful soccer player took lots of work and some rough times along the way.

“I’ve broken a lot of fences in the backyard and some windows. My dad isn’t really happy about that,” Miller said with a smile.

After seeing Miller’s success on the field, Dad is a little more understanding.

“He kind of forgave me,” Miller said.

He said he enjoys everything about the game: the movement, the flow of the game, the strategy, the speed. And he sums it up with two little words, the words that define why every youngster plays sports: “It’s fun.”


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