It's official. The Vancouver Whitecaps have signed former Cardiff City forward Kenny Miller as their third Designated Player, joining Eric Hassli and Barry Robson.
What we don't know is why.
Miller, 32 years old, has played for three clubs in the last two seasons. He was a serious scorer with Rangers from 2008 to the 2010-11 season, including an absolutely leviathan 21 goals in 18 appearances in 2010-11 until he was sold to Bursaspor in Turkey. But his production with Bursaspor was mediocre, and moving to the English Championship he was far from outstanding. Rangers aside, Miller's career is a chorus of "pretty good" and "not great" over nine clubs and seldom at a huge level.
He's produced well for Scotland, of course. Miller can't be a terrible player: his two goals in his final twenty-two Cardiff City matches (all competitions) was catastrophic but doesn't represent his career. He's got speed and skill but is pretty much a straight-up scorer rather than an all-rounder in the Sebastien Le Toux mold. He's also an older player trying to adjust to a very different league. He's a speed merchant at an age when speedsters almost inevitably start to lose a step. He's now washed out of two leagues (the Turkish Premier and English Championship) that aren't so much better than MLS.
Miller is also filling a position where we don't need the help. Eric Hassli and Camilo Sanvezzo have both scored at levels we'd be delighted in from Miller and Darren Mattocks certainly looks promising. If the problem is that Vancouver has talented forwards but still can't get goals, the solution is not to add additional forwards. This should be self-evident but here we are.
The Whitecaps have used a DP slot on a well-known Scottish player, captain of the national team, and between Rennie, Ritchie, and Robson this is starting to not look like a coincidence. After spending a year defending the Whitecaps not showing favouritism to Canadians I'm horrified to see they're showing favouritism to Scots. I seldom quote Duane Rollins approvingly, but I think he might have nailed this one on Twitter:
This is a Mo Johnston-esque move.
Try as I might, I can't imagine what the Whitecaps wanted to spend this money for. If Miller is replacing anybody, it's Darren Mattocks: a speed merchant, only one real dimension, gets marked out of the game sometimes when you feel like he shouldn't be, but runs hard, hits the ball with power, and generally aims towards the goal. Except Mattocks is the one guy who's producing. As our midfield tries to find its passing legs and spread the field meaningfully, Mattocks has been able to get some lovely individual goals by just exploiting mistakes and running like hell. We don't need a DP to help us do that.
The Whitecaps have not got great playmaking out of their midfield, especially not on Saturday: I'm not sure what Rennie thought that Alain Rochat - Gershon Koffie - Jun Marques Davidson combination was going to do but it didn't work. They're also so bad at spreading the field it makes me cry, and makes it easier for big lunkhead MLS defenders to grab onto the likes of Camilo or Hassli; players who can't burn them with speed and who'll get whistled if they try anything physical back, secure in the knowledge that the only way Vancouver can attack is through the middle.
The acquisition of Dane Richards, I thought, was a step in the right direction to solve a problem that had been staring us in the face since day one. Signing Miller is two steps backwards. It's a return to the straight-down-the-highway soccer which has gotten Vancouver a decent season so far but has also kept us in low-scoring games and kept us from getting through stronger or better-composed defenses, or getting results in those tough road trips.
If Vancouver was taking a chance on somebody who was having a rough season or two but who, if they returned to their previous form, could push us to the promised land... that would be one thing. Like when Toronto FC signed Mista; he was older and there were question marks about him, but he seemed like the kind of player Toronto needed and was on a short-term contract so if he didn't work out, no harm done. He didn't work out and no harm was done.
But even if Miller gets it all back, he still won't be the player Vancouver needs. That's what I like least of all.