VANCOUVER, B.C. – Vancouver Whitecaps Designated Player Kenny Miller wasn't on the plane Friday afternoon as the club prepares for a Saturday Cascadia showdown with the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field (11 pm ET, watch on MLS Live).
But the Scottish forward, who was forced to withdraw just moments into the second half of last weekend’s 1-0 loss to the Philadelphia Union due to tightness in his groin – and who has been spotted at training sessions this week with ice on his right knee – could still come down on Saturday.
“We’re still deciding on it,” head coach Martin Rennie told MLSsoccer.com on Friday at the University of British Columbia following a training session. “I think he’ll be on the trip, but whether he plays we’re not too sure yet.”
If Miller isn’t a go, there are several options available. Corey Hertzog has generally been the man to step in when one of Camilo, Miller or Russell Teibert has been unavailable. The 23-year-old has a nose for goal and scores for fun at the reserve level, and has looked bright in his six starts this season, picking up a goal and an assist.
Alternatively, Rennie could opt for Tom Heinemann. The towering 26-year-old target man isn’t the most cultured of Vancouver’s attacking options, but his size and raw strength have unsettled defenses at times.
Within the context of a derby match, the 6-foot-4 player’s physique might give him the edge, so don’t be surprised to see the St. Louis native pick up just his second league start of the campaign.
“It’s quite a physical game usually when you’re in Portland, so we need to make sure that we stand up to that,” Rennie said. “But we do have quite athletic players who can play there too.”
In midfield, the Whitecaps are without the suspended duo of Gershon Koffie for yellow card accumulation and Jun Marques Davidson, who serves a one-game ban for headbutting Keon Daniel in last weekend’s match.
Alternatively, Rennie could use Honduran Johnny Leverón, who normally plays as a center back, at holding midfielder and replace him at the back with Carlyle Mitchell – the Trinidad and Tobago international is a dominant aerial player whose height and leaping ability could come in handy should the Timbers go for a Route 1, long-ball gameplan.
“We’ve got a deep squad,” Rennie said. “It’s up to players now to prove how good they are. Obviously it’s hard going in without a lot of the players that we do have missing. We have some key and influential players not available, but that’s been the case before and the players who have gone in have stepped up, so they need to do that again.”
Martin MacMahon covers the Vancouver Whitecaps for MLSsoccer.com.