The Kenny Miller era in Vancouver has come to a close, perhaps a little earlier than expected as the former Scottish international and the club have "mutually agreed to terminate his contract." While the news of Miller leaving the club may not be a complete shocker, the timing for Miller's departure (over a month before the contract actually expired) was indeed a little of a surprise among most factions of the Whitecaps faithful.
Regardless of the reasons that led both parties to this decision, everything that we have heard or read in the past few months seemed to indicate that the club and the player were nowhere near signing an extension that would see Miller remain a Whitecap for the remainder of the season, or perhaps longer.
Before we delve into looking at what the Whitecaps can or should do with their newly available Designated Player slot, I want to take a look back and talk about Miller's tenure as a Vancouver Whitecap.
Miller was signed as a Designated Player for the Whitecaps on July 16, 2012. His first half season was underwhelming; however, there were several factors that played into Miller's lack of success in 2012. He came in mid-season, he needed to adapt to MLS and its travel, surfaces and style, his association with fellow Scottish DP Barry Robson and, perhaps more importantly, his own Designated Player status and salary. With the production of only three goals in nine appearances, many fans and media pundits were demanding Miller's head in the offseason.
In 2013 Miller had a full season to prove his detractors wrong. And he did, for the most part. The opportunity to have a full preseason with the team and the experience of the previous year proved beneficial for Kenny, who, side-by-side with Camilo and Russell Teibert, provided supporters with some exciting football with a dynamism and fluidity at a level that had not been displayed by the Whitecaps since they joined MLS.
The big "but" in Miller's 2013 season was when his durability came into question. He suited up for only 21 games, scoring 8 goals and setting up another one. With different injuries throughout the year it became clear that Miller's long-term health was a concern. Despite the time missed, Miller and Camilo were the highest-scoring duo in the league. One thing was clear to me during the 2013 season - the Whitecaps were significantly better when Miller was on the field.
In August 2013, Miller signed a contract extension until June 2014 and came back for his third season (sort of) with the Whitecaps under new coach Carl Robinson. The season opener against the New York Red Bulls saw the Scottish veteran score a brace including a magnificent finish after a similarly outstanding service by newly acquired Designated Player Pedro Morales. But, with Darren Mattocks having a rebound season, the style and formation that Robbo wants to implement and the other new additions, including Morales, Mezquida, and Fernandez, it started to become clear that there just wasn't room for Miller in the squad. This was also hinted at during Miller's "exit" press conference call, where he mentioned that he was not particularly convinced of the role that the Whitecaps wanted him to play going forward. With that in mind, it seems that this early departure was perhaps the best option for everyone.
Overall, I think that although we were able to see some flashes of greatness, the Vancouver supporters were never able to fully see what Kenny Miller could have done with this team. We were able to witness some world class finishes, but the combination of a steep learning curve, injury issues and (especially last year) the inability to receive the service that he needed, deprived Kenny of the chance to do more with the Whitecaps.
For what I have been able to gather from the outside, Kenny Miller was always professional, a leader on and off the field and a mentor to younger players who hopefully benefitted from playing and training with a player who has played at the highest level and whose soccer IQ is very high.
While Miller may never be inducted into the Whitecaps' "Ring of Honour", I do believe that he was a positive signing for this club. If you put me on the spot and make me give him a grade from 1 to 10 with 1 being the worst signing ever and 10 the best signing in the history of the club, I would happily give Kenny a seven.
So, farewell Kenny Miller, thank you for your contributions and your goals for this club and good luck in whatever comes next.
How would you describe Miller's tenure in Vancouver?