first_imgKamal Miller didn’t prove himself until last year’s postseason push. Even after he started every game of his freshman year, his imposing left foot didn’t fully register with teammates and coaches. Even after he rendered Clemson’s top striker a non-factor in the national semifinal, Miller had yet to fully blossom.But now, a year in which he’s started every game, Miller’s fortified a Syracuse unit primed for a postseason run. After a three-goal freshman season, Miller has netted two scores in SU’s last six games to pace the No. 6 Orange (10-3-3, 3-2-3 Atlantic Coast). His recent scoring jump adds to his hallmarks: safety net, precision passer and fast-break catalyst. Syracuse head coach Ian McIntyre has penciled his sophomore defender in the starting lineup in each of Syracuse’s 41 games dating to last August.“Last year, teams would try to pick on our left side and come at me a bit more,” Miller said. “Now, teams don’t have an area to exploit on our back line. They just have to come clean.”The 6-foot, 185-pound Miller, filled the shoes of former Syracuse backs Skylar Thomas and Jordan Murrell — two current professionals. Miller switched from left back to center back three years ago as a senior in high school. The transition took time. But his accurate passing, foresight to start breaks and strength to rack up tackles made him a dangerous threat in his freshman season at SU.“Kamal stepped right in and has many of the same skills Jordan has,” senior midfielder Oyvind Alseth said. “And I think he’s even taken it a step further with his physical attributes as well as his passing.”AdvertisementThis is placeholder textMiller threaded the needle with two passes in Syracuse’s overtime win against St. John’s in September. Though he normally plays on the side, Miller compressed inside against Hartford. McIntyre went with a 4-5-1, not the team’s 3-5-2, because he knew Miller could handle the new formation.Miller has been asked to join the Canadian National Team during the season, but declined so he could stay with SU.Entering the season, McIntyre said the strength of the team would be its defense. And Syracuse’s identity still rests with that defense, especially considering the offense’s inconsistency.Miller’s limited opponent penetration, especially in recent weeks. Over the summer, he played with Sergio Camargo and Mo Adams. After practices, Miller and Adams went at each other in one-on-ones. He hardly falls to the ground, rarely gets beat and almost always keeps his head up.At Albany, Miller scored SU’s only goal in a 2-1 loss. Last Friday against No. 2 Wake Forest, Miller scored SU’s only goal, allowing the Orange to hang on to a 1-1 draw despite Miles Robinson’s red card in the sixth minute. Miller’s performance in that game — racking up tackles, shutting down the second-ranked Demon Deacons and finding the back of the net — speaks to his versatility.“Having that kind of stability that you know you can just trust is very nice for us playing further up the field,” Alseth said.Miller generates crosses in the box, has won corners and plays wherever needed. Against WFU, he sunk deep into SU territory. At Hartford, he anchored left back. Other times, he’s played central back. Still, McIntyre says there’s more people haven’t seen from Miller — that he’s just scratching the surface in a budding career at SU. Comments Published on October 31, 2016 at 10:38 pm Contact Matthew: [email protected] | @MatthewGut21 Facebook Twitter Google+last_img

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