As soon as Sounders FC’s seventh MLS campaign came to a close, one thing was clear: The team was determined to get younger in the offseason.
The club made a step in that direction on Monday, signing S2 goalkeeper Tyler Miller to a first-team contract and re-signing forward Andy Craven.
“Despite both players battling injuries this past year, our staff was impressed with the progress they made in their first professional season,” GM and President of Soccer Garth Lagerwey said. “We think they can be long-term contributors to our squad going forward.”
For Craven, 23, the contract offered another opportunity with the club. The 2015 third-round draft pick from the University of North Carolina was out of contract after joining the Rave Green mid-season. He was the first player to ever be signed from S2 to the first team, but his minutes were limited.
He appeared in just two matches with the first team before sustaining an injury at training that cut his season short.
Miller, 22, also found his way to the Emerald City via the 2015 SuperDraft, although his path was slightly different. Miller completed a stint with fourth division German side SVN Sweibrücken before returning to Seattle and joining S2. He too was plagued by injury, as thumb surgery sidelined the rookie ‘keeper after just one appearance.
With the ink barely dry on his first MLS contract, the New Jersey native is looking to the team’s Defender of the Year, Stefan Frei, for guidance.
“It’s really a good opportunity for Charlie [Lyon] and me to learn from Stefan,” Miller said. “He’s been the league a long time and he’s been through a lot, especially with injuries. Charlie and I can understand that and learn from that.”
Miller, who joins Lyon as Frei’s backups, feels the addition of youth will be an advantage.
“It’s a great opportunity for me to advance my career and to come in and compete right away with the other goalkeepers,” he said. “That’s what we’re there to do: to compete, push each other and make each other better.”
Despite having an opportunity in Europe, a trip to Seattle last year solidified Miller’s decision to return to the Emerald City.
“Going up to CenturyLink Field and being in that environment, with all 44,000-plus fans…you see everyone out in the city and it’s a great place to play,” he said.
“I immediately fell in love. I knew this was exactly where I wanted to be.”