By Araceli Villanueva // @Aracelv1
In front of 17,307 energetic fans, the U.S. Men’s National Team won the group stage in a grueling 1-0 win over Panama; claiming all nine points ahead of the quarterfinals. And among the skillful roster are LAFC’s Tyler Miller and Walker Zimmerman.
Before the team heads to the east coast to face Curaçao in this Sunday’s matchup in Philadelphia, I had the opportunity to catch up with LAFC’s favorite duo in Kansas City to discuss their experiences with the senior team this tournament thus far and reflect on the club’s strong start to the season.
Prior to the start of the USMNT’s Gold Cup run, Zimmerman – a longtime veteran of the senior squad – appeared as a halftime substitution during the friendly against Venezuela and has made back-to-back appearances for Gold Cup play.
Zimmerman: “It’s been great. I mean anytime you get called into the national team, it’s an honor. But even more so, I’m getting to the point where I don’t want to be content. Get some games, get some starts, get some good performances – to try to build that momentum. [..] So it’s been great to be a part of these first two games. And get two wins.”
Tyler Miller earned his first call-up to the senior team earlier this year for January’s senior camp. Unfortunately, he didn’t make the cut to the game day roster and returned to LAFC for preseason.
Six months later, the 26-year-old keeper would get another opportunity as he was called up for the USMNT’s friendlies. Even though he appeared on the bench for both matches, Miller ultimately made the final Gold Cup roster, “[It’s] a dream come true to be a part of this team.”
Following Wednesday’s win, Miller is the only player on the roster yet to have made an appearance.
While the duo has been on the road, back in Los Angeles – LAFC has continued to defend the Banc for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, advancing to the quarterfinals last week in a thrilling 3-1 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
Miller and Zimmerman are excited about their club team: “I’ve had some late nights, where I watch some games of theirs. [I’m] looking forward to rooting them on from afar,” Zimmerman expressed.
Zimmerman went on to explain LAFC’s overall group mentality is greatly improved compared to last season:
“It’s a groundwork that we’ve put in place since the beginning of last year with how we want to be, our mentality. That’s one of the biggest differences from last year to this year, is the mentality of the whole group. To realize we’re a special group of players. We have a great locker room. And a very talented team.”
Miller added, “It’s always a challenge when you’re called into international duty for the guys to step up that haven’t really been getting a lot of minutes. I think the team has done well in the first two open cup games and that’s going to help propel them into the next three MLS games where we might have some guys still missing. I think this is a huge opportunity for guys to really get some valuable minutes because you never know. I mean the MLS season is very long and injuries happen. And everyone has to be ready.”
One of those players who has been earning some “valuable minutes” is Pablo Sisneiga, who has stepped up in Miller’s absence. And Tyler was thrilled for the young Mexican keeper:
“Pablo has done great. I’ve always got confidence in Pablo. I think he’s really performed well and has made some key saves for our team, especially with the RSL game. This last game we had too. I’m really happy for him because I know how hard he works. He’s a good kid and I’m glad to see him doing well.”
As the pair gear up to head to the east coast with the USMNT – the black-and-gold will kick off a packed schedule in Colorado on Friday.
Featured Image: Peaty Romano
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