Pandemic threw a wrench in her plans last season, but she is finally getting an opportunity in ’21
Goalkeeper Cassie Miller’s National Women’s Soccer League debut came in 2020, but her experience with the Red Stars goes all the way back to her high school days.
In fact, Julie Ertz was a teammate when she was growing up in Arizona playing for the Sereno Soccer Club.
When the opportunity came to sign with the Red Stars and begin her NWSL career, it was a no-brainer.
“I committed to Florida State after my sophomore year of high school,” Miller said. “So I started training with the Red Stars every summer starting then.”
Miller said she realized she had a future in the game when she was 12 and began playing club soccer in Arizona, but her soccer goals have shifted several times.
When she graduated from Florida State, she decided not to pursue opportunities in the NWSL, opting to begin her professional career overseas.
It was important to experience the game internationally, so she signed her first professional contract with PSV in the Netherlands. After a year and a half, she signed with Apollon Ladies FC in Cyprus for a chance to compete in the prestigious Champions League.
Overseas, Miller says it’s a more technical game than in the NWSL which showcases speed and power.
In anticipation of the Tokyo Olympics, originally planned for 2020, Miller signed with the Red Stars, knowing there would be an opportunity in goal with Alyssa Naeher competing for gold in Japan.
When the pandemic forced a postponement of the Olympics, Miller went from competing to be Naeher’s replacement to spending an entire season learning from her.
It wasn’t a bad gig when your goals include becoming a No. 1 keeper in the league someday.
“I’ve always shown up and given 100% at training,” Miller said. “Watching her professionalism, how she takes care of her body, starts early and always kicks after training has taught me a lot. I really need to give that every single day if I want to get to that level.”
Miller’s plan to defend the goal in place of Naeher is being realized a year later than expected, and it hasn’t taken place without a healthy dose of competition.
Emily Boyd has been the Red Stars’ No. 2 goalkeeper for three years. When Miller arrived in 2020, Boyd was thrilled to have someone to compete with. When she tore ligaments in her knee playing for the Danish football club HB Køge after the 2020 Challenge Cup, that competition was halted.
Miller remembers hearing the news and immediately texting Boyd and offering her support. When Boyd came out of surgery, Miller was there to help her around her apartment.
When the 2021 Challenge Cup kicked off, Miller was in goal. She had a shutout in the Red Stars’ opening game against the Houston Dash and gave up a goal to the Portland Thorns’ Morgan Weaver in the second game.
Naeher returned to the Red Stars this week for the first time in 2021 but will leave in June for the Tournament of Nations and again in July for the Olympics.
By then, Boyd will have returned from injury and will be ready to compete to be Naeher’s understudy.
“She just keeps saying, ‘I’ll be back soon,’ ” Miller said. “It’s always been a healthy competition.”
Whoever plays, the Red Stars will be in good hands. Both keepers have learned from the best and continue to push each other.
If it’s Miller, she said there’s no pressure.
“It’s taking all the tools that I have from club level, college level, overseas experience, and when that whistle blows, knowing that I’m OK and I’ve gained that trust,” Miller said.