VANCOUVER, B.C. – When Kenny Miller plays, the Vancouver Whitecaps are better.
Specifically, when Miller starts, the 'Caps have a record of 10-6-3. That's four games over .500 in comparison to the team's overall record of 11-11-8.
The Scottish Designated Player, who has shown his quality this season after adapting slowly to Major League Soccer in 2012, has scored eight goals from his 20 appearances this time around. And Vancouver head coach Martin Rennie believes that beyond his goals, the forward helps the team's play in the attacking third generally by helping create opportunities for teammates.
So naturally, the 'Caps are hoping their key man is back a for Sunday's vital Cascadia clash with the Portland Timbers (8 pm ET; MLS Live) after a right abductor issue kept him out of last Saturday's 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake. The Timbers match has major playoff implications, as the Vancouver camp is of the belief that three wins from the next four matches are required to sneak into the postseason.
Given the stakes and situation, it sounds as if Miller is anywhere close to game ready, he will play a part.
“No, not really,” Rennie said of a concern of pushing Miller back into action too early. “If he's close to fit, then he'll be playing.”
And lest 'Caps fans worry that Miller might re-aggravate his injury with an early return, both player and coach are seeing positive signs in this week's training sessions.
“It's getting there,” Miller said of his recovery after a training session at the University of British Columbia on Wednesday. “I've stepped up the training the last two days. It's feeling pretty good. Obviously, we're not getting too excited too quickly, but hopefully I'll get back involved in a full session on Friday.”
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Added Rennie, “He trained today and seems to have no ill effects so far. So hopefully tomorrow he'll be fine and then I'd be hopeful that he can be involved at the weekend.”
Miller is also encouraged by his own recent history, having already dealt with a right abductor injury earlier in the 2013 season.
“I had a similar kind of injury that ruled me out of the Portland game [on Aug. 3] and I was able to play the following week against San Jose,” he said. “So I'm hopeful it can be the same kind of process again.”