Miller looks for strong game against Galaxy after retiring from Scotland
Scotland's Kenny Miller celebrates after he scored a goal during the international friendly soccer match between England and Scotland at Wembley Stadium in London, Wednesday, Aug. 14, 2013. (AP Photo/Kirsty Wigglesworth)
Published Friday, August 23, 2013 9:14PM EDT
VANCOUVER -- Now that his international soccer career is over, Kenny Miller is looking to shine only with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
He will get his next chance Saturday as Vancouver (10-8-6) hosts the Los Angeles Galaxy (11-9-4) at B.C. Place Stadium.
Miller, whose retirement from Scotland's national side was confirmed Friday, is looking for an improvement from himself and the rest of the Caps after they struggled in Vancouver's last game, a 2-0 road loss to Colorado.
It came just three days after he scored a memorable goal in the final game for his homeland and knew that his days in Scotland's colours were likely over.
"As a striker, you come back and you focus on your next game, which turned out to be a disappointing one," said Miller after practice Friday. "We need to (rally) and make sure we get back to our winning ways this weekend."
The game has strong implications in Major League's Soccer's tight Western Conference standings. With a win, the fifth-place Whitecaps can leap over fourth-place L.A. into a tie for second. The Galaxy can gain sole possession of second place if they extend their win streak to five games.
Miller acknowledged that he was battling "mixed emotions" in Vancouver's previous contest in Denver, which came after he stood out in Scotland's memorable friendly against England at London's Wembley Stadium.
"I think I pretty much came to a decision beforehand," he said. "I could have added that little bit and still go on and play for a year or so. But I just felt that with the World Cup campaign being over and the start of the next campaign probably over a year away, I think now was the best time to go away."
Miller called it an international career after scoring 18 goals in 69 appearances over 12 years with Scotland.
Scotland has World Cup qualifying games remaining, but has already been eliminated from the race for berths available in its region. If Miller had stayed with his national side, he could have missed games with the Whitecaps in the stretch drive of the MLS season while suiting up in meaningless international affairs.
He ended his days in Scotland's colours on a high note as he gave the Scots a lead in an eventual loss in the first game between the two U.K. sides in 14 years. Despite the disappointing loss, he felt the goal was "not a bad way to finish off."
Now, Miller, hopes the Whitecaps can finish their chances better than they did in Denver. The Whitecaps are also looking to duplicate their May 11 effort against L.A. at B.C. Place, when they beat the Galaxy for the first time ever.
"We beat them comfortably here the last time," said Miller. "It was 3-1 and it was a comfortable 3-1. In front of our home fans, we're always confident."
Whitecaps coach Martin Rennie expressed confidence that Vancouver will be getting a better version of Miller now that he has decided to retire from international duty.
"It's really a big boost for us here at the Whitecaps, because 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," said Rennie. "Not only that, but he's not going to be travelling back from international games. I've always felt that it's a dilemma whether to play him or not when he does come back from international duty."
Miller is fresh after spending the past week in Vancouver. While fulfilling his international duty, he crossed the Atlantic twice and played three games -- the one for Scotland and two for the Whitecaps -- in a seven-day span. Rennie, a fellow Scot, said it's probably a good time for Miller to step away from international competition as Scotland's national squad introduces young players.
"It makes sense, I think, because Scotland is in a difficult spot in (World Cup) qualifying," said Rennie. "It's a good chance for new players to come in."
The Whitecaps will look for Miller to help them continue their strong offensive production at B.C. Place. Heading into Friday's MLS play, the Whitecaps led the league in home goals with 26.
But defence will also be a major concern, because the Whitecaps had allowed the second-highest total of home goals against (13), and the two-time defending champion Galaxy boast two of the league's top players in Irish international Robbie Keane and American star Landon Donovan.
Keane recorded a hat trick in L.A.'s previous MLS game, a win over Western Conference-leading Real Salt Lake last weekend, and added two more Tuesday in a Champions League match against CS Cartagines of Costa Rica.
Donovan produced a hat trick in the MLS game before that, a win over FC Dallas.
"Landon Donovan's looking for a new contract, so he's very motivated as well," said Rennie. "He's already a very good player, but I'm sure, at least subconsciously, that adds a little extra to what he's doing."
Added Miller: "They've got great players, starting with Keane and, obviously, they've got a lot of experience."
Rennie could add experience to his back line in the form of central defender Andy O'Brien, who has not played since suffering a hamstring injury in early June. O'Brien dressed for the last two games, but did not get on the pitch.
He appears more likely to see duty this weekend given the opposition and the defender's improved fitness after his long layoff. The Englishman, who also holds Irish citizenship, said it will take a collective effort to stop his former Republic of Ireland teammate Keane and Donovan.
"Everybody will play their part ... If you can stop the (ball) supply to the better players or, supposedly, the best players, it'll make your job a lot easier," said O'Brien.