By NICHOLAS MURRAY – firstname.lastname@example.org
Friday, March 11, 2016
After a breakout season in 2015, his first as a full-time starter for the Rochester Rhinos, it would have been an easy decision for 2015 USL Goalkeeper of the Year Brandon Miller to return and help the club defend its championship.
Instead, though, Miller decided after four years in Rochester, he was looking for something new.
“I have been in Rochester for four seasons, and I felt like it was time for a new challenge,” Miller said. “Obviously, speaking with Barry [Venison], speaking with Oliver [Wyss], their goals for this Orange County team aligned with my vision for a follow-up season to last season, so I felt like this was a good next step for me and my career.”
Now a member of Orange County Blues FC, Miller is enjoying getting to know his new teammates, adjusting to a new playing style, and striving to continue to prove himself after a record-setting season with the Rhinos. Miller recorded 13 shutouts a year ago, a USL record, as the Rhinos set a new low with only 15 goals against in the regular season.
- RELATED: 2016 USL Preview: Orange County Blues FC
The chemistry the Rhinos created on their way to arguably the finest season in the USL’s five-year history was its strongest trait. Miller said he’ll miss the atmosphere within the locker room that helped the team drive forward toward a championship.
“Going into the locker room every day and seeing those guys and the camaraderie we had is definitely something I’m going to miss,” Miller said. “Over the four years I’ve build a lot of relationships in the office and in the community, so I try to stay in touch with those people too, but that was the main thing I’m going to miss the most.”
While it didn’t match Rochester’s defensive prowess, Orange County was no slouch defensively itself a year ago, though. The Blues conceded only 34 goals in 28 regular-season games, but the side’s more open style saw Pepe Miranda record 40 more saves in his 25 appearances than Miller did for the Rhinos. Now the presumptive starter for the Blues, Miller believes he’s ready for the challenge, and believes the new facets he’s adding to his game will help him grow as a goalkeeper.
“It’s a bit different to what I was used to last year, playing with my feet a bit more, and playing out of the back a bit more, trying to do things like that. It’s an adjustment I’m looking forward to because those are the things that can help me get to the next level in terms of playing at a higher level,” Miller said. “Playing with my feet a bit more, organization-wise getting on the same page with my teammates and what the coaches want. The adjustment is tough, but it’s fun, and I’m looking forward to the change.”
Miller is also looking forward to facing competition in the Western Conference, where the Blues finished on top last season after a thrilling race for the playoffs that came down to the final weekend of the season. While there were those who thought the Blues snuck up on some teams last year after a disappointing 2014 season, Miller said he’s looking forward to the heightened expectations that are surrounding the team this year.
“Being the defending Western Conference regular season champions, that’s what everyone wants to do,” Miller said. “Now we’ve got that target on our back a little bit. We want to build on last season and take it further in the playoffs, and hopefully into the championship.”
After putting up eye-popping numbers a year ago, though, Miller is treating this season the same as any other as he looks to prove last season wasn’t a function of the system he was competing behind.
- RELATED: Orange County, Cal South Announce New Partnership