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The push and pull of international duty for Vancouver’s Kenny Miller; big choices loom

Aug 19, 2013, 5:57 PM EDT

Kenny Miller, Tyson Wahl

Two full rounds of MLS matches are stacked up against FIFA’s upcoming international break, creating the same old headaches for clubs around the league.

Sporting Kansas City will lose two important men to the U.S. World Cup qualifying effort. Seattle could lose two U.S. international strikers. The LA Galaxy will likely lose all-time scoring leader Landon Donovan and newly minted DP Omar Gonzalez as Jurgen Klinsmann’s U.S. team faces World Cup qualifiers on Sept. 6 and 10.

In those cases, at least, the choices are fairly clear cut: He who is called shows up. Period.

The Americans are in position to qualify with another three points, so Donovan, Gonzalez, Graham Zusi, Matt Besler, Eddie Johnson, Clint Dempsey and others absolutely want to be there. Not only for the opportunity of participating in the thrilling World Cup berth-clincher, but also for the ongoing jostle for positioning within the pool.

It’s not such a moment of “case closed” with Vancouver’s Kenny Miller, who is enjoying a spry bounce this year after a 2012 MLS campaign that fell decidedly (and in some minds surprisingly) flat.  Miller’s seven goals are one reason Martin Rennie’s Whitecaps have enjoyed such a fruitful summer.

Miller’s bright work at BC Place led a call-up for Scotland, where the striker made the most of his time in the national shirt, scoring one at Wembley Stadium last week against storied rival England.

Ordinarily, an international call-up for any proud Scotsman (especially a 33-year-old in the winter of his playing days, surely with precious few of them remaining) would be a no-brainer.

(MORE: Why MLS should not play through international dates)

But Scotland is too far behind in the World Cup qualifying chase to matter, fifth in the six-team group. So what happens if Miller is summoned for qualifiers Sept. 6 (Belgium) and Sept. 10 (Macedonia)? That’s a tougher call.

Miller would miss the MLS club’s Sept. 7 match in Dallas and could well be gassed for the team’s Sept. 14 contest in San Jose. (The ‘Caps schedule is here.)

Miller told The Province over the weekend that talks will soon ensue, choices soon made, etc. But decisions would not need making if MLS would schedule a few more weeknight matches and stop playing through international dates. (Well, fewer decisions like this, at least.)

  1. dreadpirate82 - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    I’m guessing you meant Matt Besler instead of Kei Kamara there, though Kei will be in the same situation as Kenny Miller, with Sierra Leone out of contention with one match to play. Hopefully he’s healthy by then.

    • Steve Davis - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:42 PM

      Fixed! Thanks for the heads-up. (Sometimes you look for all the commas and periods and such, and its the most doggone obvious brain farts that slip through.)

  2. talgrath - Aug 19, 2013 at 6:23 PM

    For a soccer player, there is no prouder moment than playing for your country, I don’t see Miller turning that down. MLS should stop playing through international play, it really is ridiculous. Just play a handful fewer games and be willing to pack a few more weeks with double-games and you’re fine. A 28 game season seems to me to be a good way to do it, that’s 2 games each against conference rivals and 1 game against opponents from the other conference, increasing slightly as MLS expands further.

    • charliej11 - Aug 19, 2013 at 8:19 PM

      I wouldn’t mind a smaller schedule either. Expand the playoffs if anything (my addition, you.may or may not agree ), but either way, I am starting to agree with the post below it might be on purpose.

  3. dfstell - Aug 19, 2013 at 7:03 PM

    You know…..I’m sure there are many reasons why MLS plays through international dates, but I wonder if one minor reason is that it helps to level the playing field a little bit.

    Have a team with a few international players and you’ll lose them for a number of games and have a difficult time building team chemistry because you can’t get a consistent run with your best 11.

  4. hildezero - Aug 19, 2013 at 11:33 PM

    The MLS has a lot of teams in order to have a 28 game schedule, bet yet again, I guess it’s okay when there are playoffs at the end of the season.

  5. tylerbetts - Aug 20, 2013 at 4:02 PM

    I used to get upset about MLS scheduling over International Dates. Then, I realized two things:

    1) Other leagues do it. In much more soccer-made countries than ours.

    2) FIFA is threatening to jack with the International Calendar with Qatar 2022.

    With those two things in mind, I moved furor over MLS playing on International Dates to my own personal “meh” list.

  6. hildezero - Aug 20, 2013 at 7:50 PM

    Actually, FIFA wants to move it from June to November. That would be a nightmare for the MLS. Last thing they would want, would be the biggest soccer tournament in the world at play during the playoffs.

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