Soccer

Michelle Kaufman: Matt Miazga leaves Red Bulls for Chelsea

A week after rising American star Jordan Morris announced he was forgoing the Bundesliga to play for his hometown Seattle Sounders, another top U.S. prospect — Matt Miazga — is leaving the New York Red Bulls to test himself with Chelsea in the English Premier League.

Miazga, 20, is considered the most promising young American defender, and European teams have had their eye on him for quite some time. Other teams that were interested included Manchester United, Arsenal and Manchester City. Chelsea reportedly paid a $5 million transfer fee to get Miazga.

The 6-4 defender was a commanding presence on the Red Bulls’ back line last season, and in the fall played his first games for the U.S. national team. He grew up in New Jersey, joined the Red Bulls Academy at 14 and is a dual Polish-American citizen, so he played for the junior national teams of both countries before deciding to represent the United States. His Polish passport also means he doesn’t have to get a work permit to play in England, which made the transaction easy.

Chelsea, as everyone knows, has been struggling all season. The defending league champions find themselves mired in 13th place, four spots out of the relegation zone. The club on Friday reached an agreement to sign Brazilian forward Alexandre Pato from Corinthians on loan until the end of the season.

Interim coach Guus Hiddink said Miazga will be a part of the team and will not be sent on loan. He is seen as a potential replacement for Papy Djilobodji, who was loaned to Werder Bremen. He is eager to play alongside the likes of John Terry and Gary Cahill.

“We don’t rush him, but he will be one of the squad members for the future,” Hiddink said of Miazga. “He’s a young guy stepping up to the national team, and it’s always good to have such players here so you can see what they are capable of in training.

“He’s a young player, a promising player — let’s see if he can get himself to the high demands of this club and the Premier League.”

U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann is surely thrilled with the news. He has made no secret of the fact that, given a choice, he believes players should test themselves against top players in Europe. Miazga certainly is in for the test of his life.

the path toward Rio

There are 13 holdovers on the roster from the World Cup-winning U.S. women’s team for the upcoming Olympic qualifying tournament. Among the big names: Hope Solo, Carli Lloyd, Becky Sauerbrunn, Alex Morgan, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger and Julie Johnston.

The U.S. opens qualifying on Feb. 10 against Costa Rica, then plays Mexico on Feb. 13 and Puerto Rico on Feb. 15. The matches are in Frisco, Texas.

The U.S. will attempt to qualify for a sixth consecutive Olympic Games. They won gold in 2004, 2008 and 2012.

“This was an exceptionally challenging roster to select,” said coach Jill Ellis, who lives in Palmetto Bay. “The players all worked and competed very hard in the January camp, and that made the final decisions extremely difficult. With only 17 field players allowed on the roster and minimal time in between matches, I think we have one of the most versatile rosters ever for a qualifying tournament.’’

South Florida fans will get to see the U.S. team on March 9 when the Americans play at FAU Stadium against Germany at 7:30 p.m. as part of the SheBelieves Tournament. It is a doubleheader, with France facing England at 5 p.m. Tickets are on sale through Ticketmaster.

Miami FC signs Cuban defender Corrales

Jorge Luis Corrales, a former member of the Cuban national team, has signed with Miami FC. The 24-year-old defender played six years for Pinar del Rio and also played on the Cuban youth and senior national teams. Corrales was in Miami on a visa visiting his father last month and attended the Miami FC open tryouts. Coaches were impressed.

“Corrales is one of the most driven players I’ve had the opportunity of working with,” Miami FC coach Alessandro Nesta said. “He impressed me in the open and invitational tryouts, so it’s a pleasure to bring him on board. He has such a passion for the sport, and it’s always refreshing to see someone with so much dedication take their talents to the field.”

Said Corrales: “This is an incredible opportunity. I came to Miami to better myself as a player and continue learning what I can about the sport. Now I have the chance to contribute what I can to help make this team a success.”

▪ The Colombian and Honduran Under-23 teams will play a friendly at Lockhart Stadium on Feb. 27 at 6 p.m. Honduras already qualified for the Olympics with a win over the United States. Colombia has yet to qualify. Tickets are $25 and available at comprebole tos.com or at 888-612-4190.

Who’s leading

EPL: Leicester City (47), Manchester City and Arsenal (44), Tottenham (42), Manchester United (37)

La Liga: Barcelona (51), Atletico Madrid (48), Real Madrid (44), Villarreal (41), Celta Vigo and Athletic Bilbao (34)

Serie A: Napoli (47), Juventus (45), Inter and Fiorentina (41), Roma (38)

Bundesliga: Bayern Munich (49), Dortmund (44), Hertha Berlin (34), Bayer Leverkusen (31), Schalke 04 (30), Monchengladbach (29)

Ligue 1: PSG (60), Monaco (39), Angers (37), Nice (36), Rennes (34)

On the tube

Sunday: Valencia vs. Sporting Gijon (9:55 a.m., BEINÑ), Las Palmas vs. Celta de Vigo (12:10, BEIN, BEINÑ), Toluca vs. Puebla (1 p.m., UNI, UNID)

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