VANCOUVER, BC – As Vancouver Whitecaps FC enter the final 10 matches of the season, a bit of surprising news from their Designated Player has given the side an extra boost.
Striker Kenny Miller's decision to retire from international soccer, which was announced Friday, means the 33-year-old can focus on Vancouver's push for a second consecutive playoff berth.
“It means that going into international games – and there's quite a few over the next couple of months – Kenny's going to be here,” head coach Martin Rennie said following a training session at BC Place on Friday. “Not only that, but he's not going to be traveling back from international games, which I've always felt is a dilemma to play him or not when he does come back from international duty.”
Scottish FA tribute video for Kenny MIller
With Scotland's remaining World Cup qualifying matches for Brazil 2014 essentially meaningless, and after scoring a cracking goal against England last week at Wembley Stadium, Miller said the moment was right to call time on his international career.
“With 10 games to go, I don't think it was ideal to go away and miss one, two games,” Miller said following Friday's session. “We just felt that with the World Cup campaign all but over, it was maybe the right time to call it a day.”
Miller's decision, which he hopes will prolong his professional playing career, could also extend his time in Vancouver.
The former Rangers and Celtic man signed a six-month extension with the 'Caps in late July which keeps him at the club until June 2014, but the player's decision to hang up the boots internationally could encourage his club to offer an even lengthier contract.
“I would think so,” Rennie answered when asked if Miller's international retirement would encourage the team to pursue a long-term deal with the player. “It certainly wouldn't be a deterrent. The fact that he could be here more, training and involved all the time, I think that would help.”
After struggling to find a rhythm in his first year in MLS after joining mid-season, Miller has been excellent as part of Vancouver's dynamic three pronged attack alongside striker Camilo and winger Russell Teibert, scoring seven goals from 15 appearances this season.
While he's dealt with criticism both in Scotland and in the early stages of his time in North America, Miller has made plenty eat humble pie along the way – which makes his final Scotland showing a nice way to go out by bagging one against the old enemy.
“It was great to get the goal,” Miller said. “It put us 2-1 up at Wembley against England. It's the stuff that dreams are made of. Unfortunately we couldn't hold on for a positive result, but obviously afterward you reflect on it since then and kind of think – it's not a bad way to finish off.”
Martin MacMahon covers Vancouver Whitecaps FC for MLSsoccer.com.