In the buildup to the club’s inaugural season, Los Angeles Football Club supporters have come out in full-force for everything from welcoming new signings at the airport to traveling en masse for last week’s MLS SuperDraft.
But Tyler Miller, the expansion club’s first goalkeeper, has felt the support on a deeper level.
“Last summer my brother Kyle’s fiancé Dana got diagnosed with brain cancer,” Miller explained Monday morning after his first day of training with LAFC at their temporary UCLA headquarters.
It was a shock diagnosis. After undergoing major surgery, a small portion of Dana’s cancer remained. The Miller family braced for multiple rounds of chemotherapy, which began last year while Tyler was helping the Seattle Sounders on their run to the MLS cup final.
After his team ultimately fell to Toronto FC, Miller was left unprotected by the Sounders for December’s Expansion Draft.
“There were a lot of bittersweet emotions,” Miller said of the time leading up to the draft, where he was selected by LAFC with their first pick, as both his career and his personal life felt in the balance.
Though she was able to complete several rounds of chemotherapy in 2017, when the new year began, so did Dana’s increased insurance deductible.
“They had to hit $7,000 before they could begin her next round of chemo,” Miller said. “I just thought it would be a great idea to get people involved and see if I could generate a couple thousand dollars, just to help them out.”
Last week Miller launched a GoFundMe campaign to help with the mounting medical bills.
Miller’s teammate Walker Zimmerman, members of the club’s independent supporters union 3252 and unaffiliated Angeleno fans – including one who donated $1,000 alone – joined supporters from Seattle and elsewhere to pitch in.
“I was blown away by the amount of people I’ve been involved with over the course of my life from my high school to Northwestern, Seattle and now in LA, the amount of people that just chipped in,” Miller said. “I was overwhelmed with emotions because of what it means to my family.”
Voices like Herculez Gomez, Miller’s former Seattle teammate and current ESPN analyst, helped spread the word. The two embraced with gusto at the training ground Wednesday – and not only for soccer reasons.
Their social media push worked – within a day the campaign generated $8,000.
“We’ve never played a game,” Miller said of his expansion side. “Yet the fans are still so eager to help out their players and that just speaks volumes to this city and this community.”
As of writing, the campaign has raised over $13,000, which has caused the Miller family to widen the scope of the fundraising drive.
“Now we’re trying to shift it to have it be even more like to help out other families that are going through a similar hardship,” Miller said. “We will donate extra funds to families that are hit with a sudden disease and have to need money just to continue care.”
Though much has been made of the hype around LAFC – and of the expansion of MLS as a whole – Miller’s experience speaks to the spirit within both the local and national community around the growing game. It’s a close-knit camraderie the Sounders, who LAFC will play in their inaugural match on March 3 and again in their home opener on April 29, have often exemplified and one that LAFC are looking to expand.
“There’s been a lot of offseason excitement with everything revolving around LAFC,” Miller said of his first day on the job. “It was nice to get out on the pitch and get the ball rolling.”
As for where the goalkeeper stands on the recent emotional rollercoaster of his career?
“Today,” Miller joked, the noon Southern California sunshine beating down on him after a good training session. “It’s not raining and 45 degrees like it is in Seattle.”