When John Thorrington ended his playing career and enrolled in grad school at Northwestern, he was hoping to leave with an MBA. What he didn't plan on was leaving with a goalkeeper as well.
To be fair, he didn't know he would need one. The Los Angeles Football Club, which would eventually make Thorrington its general manager, was little more than an idea at the time. So when Thorrington volunteered to help coach Northwestern's soccer team, he did so with an eye toward making the players better, not signing them.
Yet Thorrington couldn't forget Tyler Miller. So when Seattle left the goalie unprotected in last winter's expansion draft, LAFC took Miller with its first pick. He has more than repaid that confidence, posting four shutouts in LAFC's first nine games, the last coming Wednesday in a 2-0 win over Minnesota United before an announced crowd of 22,000 at Banc of California Stadium.
First-half goals from Eduard Atuesta and Mark-Anthony Kaye, the first in MLS for each, provided all the offense LAFC (6-2-1) needed to run its unbeaten streak to five games.
"It's amazing how this world works," Thorrington said with a nod toward Miller. "I've always kept tabs on him. I've always thought he was a player that had MLS potential. And he's proving that."
Miller's four shutouts rank second in MLS behind Kansas City's Tim Melia, who has played two more games. And Miller should have one more but after he stopped a penalty shot in a March win over Real Salt Lake, RSL scored on the rebound.
"When John picked me in the expansion draft I was very excited," said Miller, who spent two seasons in Seattle backing up Stefan Frei, starting just three times. "I knew it was an opportunity for me to come down here and at least play for a starting spot. It's been great so far."
None of that has been a surprise for Thorrington.
"Goalkeeper is one of those positions that you can't necessarily just look at someone's experience and hold that against them," he said. "I always knew he had the right profile and a pedigree and the ability to be an MLS goalkeeper."
LAFC dominated from the opening whistle, outshooting Minnesota 29-7 and putting more than twice as many shots on target. A pair of 20-year-old South Americans combined to put LAFC in front to stay in the 31st minute with Atuesta, who moments earlier had gone to the sidelines to have a gash to his head repaired, pulling up in the center of the penalty area to take a pass from Diego Rossi, then driving the ball through traffic and into the back of the net.
The goal came in the second MLS start for the Colombian while the assist was the league-leading sixth of the season for Rossi.
Kaye doubled the lead, taking a header from Latif Blessing at the edge of the six-yard box and volleying home a right-footed shot.
On the other end, Miller got a shutout-saving assist from defender Walker Zimmerman in the waning minutes of the first half. With Miguel Ibarra coming up the right wing alone, Miller charged off his line to challenge the Minnesota midfielder, leaving the net open. But Walker, following the play, arrived at the near post in time to head Ibarra's shot away.
That chance and a Darwin Quintero try that hit the goalpost in the seventh minute would prove to be the best chances of the night for Minnesota (4-6-0).
"We've taken pride in keeping the other team off the board," said Miller.