It is an extraordinary mid-season overhaul.
On Monday morning came the finishing move, as the Vancouver Whitecaps announced the signing of striker Kenny Miller, who captains Scotland’s national team.
“We’re delighted to bring an experienced striker like Kenny to our club,” said team coach Martin Rennie in a press release on Monday. “He has been a proven goalscorer with big clubs in Scotland and played in the England Premier League. His speed, energy, and work rate will be a valuable asset to our club, as we look to have a strong second half of the season in MLS.”
Miller is 32 and most recently played for Cardiff City, one level below the English premiership. He arrived in Vancouver on Sunday and practises with the team today, set to play against visiting Los Angeles Galaxy on Wednesday night.
The roster churn for the Whitecaps, a second-year Major League Soccer team, began in early July, when Scottish international midfielder Barry Robson officially joined the team. Then, last week, Vancouver dispatched star playmaker Davide Chiumiento to FC Zurich and goal scorer Sebastien Le Toux to the New York Red Bulls.
Remaking the Whitecaps isn’t a salvage project this year, as it was a year ago when the expansion franchise crawled to a last-place finish. The sophomore Whitecaps have been in ascendance, on the way to the playoffs - or at least they seemed set on that course until the past three weeks.
It was in late June when the Whitecaps were badly beaten by the Galaxy, 3-0 on the road. Vancouver was 7-3-5 heading into that game. Now, Vancouver is 8-6-6, with 30 points. The record is still good enough for eighth in the 19-team MLS, where 10 teams make the playoffs, and Vancouver is comfortably eight points clear of three teams tied for 11th with 22 points.
But, in Vancouver on Wednesday night, here come the star-studded Galaxy, David Beckham, Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan. The Whitecaps know they need to be able to play with the likes of L.A. if the team has a hope of succeeding in the playoffs, not just making the postseason. The addition of Miller and Robson, two Scots now to play under Scottish coach Rennie, are the hoped-for boost towards the MLS elite that Chiumiento and Le Toux were not. Robson helped the Whitecaps convince Miller to come to Vancouver.
Miller has been signed as the club’s third and final designated player, which means the Whitecaps can pay him more money than most players. Other Whitecaps designated players are Robson and Eric Hassli.
Hassli’s future with the club is in question. He was the team’s first star, last year, but has eclipsed this season, often playing as a substitute and not a starter. Rookie Darren Mattocks leads the team in goals, with six, and Le Toux had four. Hassli has two, compared with 10 last year.