In a normal season, maybe Minnesota United starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller would have played on longer with a hip injury. Instead, he underwent surgery at 6 a.m. Wednesday and will be sidelined until 2021.
Of course, there’s nothing normal about this MLS regular season, which the Loons will restart Friday against Sporting Kansas City at Allianz Field. The team’s next six games are part of what MLS Commissioner Don Garber calls “Phase 1’’ of the league’s attempt to play in-market through the coronavirus pandemic.
Not knowing how long the rest of their season will run, Miller and team officials decided to repair a labrum injury, a ring of cartilage that cushions the hip joint. Miller played through the injury during the Loons’ six-game MLS is Back tournament in Orlando.
“Obviously, a big blow, but that’s why you have a squad of players,” coach Adrian Heath.
The Loons now will turn to Greg Ranjitsingh, a two-time USL Championship title winner, to replace Miller. On Wednesday, they also recalled 2019 first-round pick Dayne St. Clair from San Antonio FC to be Ranjitsingh’s backup. St. Clair must complete a short quarantine period before he can play.
The Loons acquired Miller for $200,000 allocation money in a January trade with LAFC. They signed him through the 2022 season after they didn’t reach contract terms with 2019 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Vito Mannone.
Miller started all eight of the Loons’ games in 2020 — two regular-season games in March and six more in the Orlando tournament.
Miller posted Wednesday on Instagram that he decided on surgery after “a lot of thought and conversations.” He wrote that it gives him the greatest opportunity to play the “sport I love for the next 10+ plus years.”
He also slyly noted that he looks “forward to getting back on the field in 2021 stronger and with a fuller mustache” that he began sporting under the bubble in Orlando.
Heath said Miller, 27, has “gradually been feeling his hip for a few weeks” and that further examinations revealed an injury “probably worse than we thought.”
“Fingers crossed we get a normal season,” Heath said. “But if we don’t, we just felt this was the right time to get it done and make sure he’s ready for next year.”
Miller will need a second surgery later, but Heath said he expects there will be enough time for Miller to heal from both before the 2021 season starts.
“We realized when we spoke to the doctors that he needs this operation,’’ Heath said. “So we’ll get it done and work on him being full and healthy for next season.”
Loons veteran midfielder Ethan Finlay called it “almost remarkable’’ that Miller played through the tournament. “Sometimes when you bring in a guy you think is going to be your goalkeeper for years to come, you have to make a tough decision like that for him and the club,” he said.
Ranjitsingh, 27, won consecutive USL Championships with Louisville City in 2017 and 2018. He played two MLS games with Orlando City after the Lions signed him in 2018.
“He already knows we feel comfortable with him,’’ Loons center back Michael Boxall said. “He’s a great shot stopper. We’re very comfortable with him behind us.”
• Midfielder Robin Lod sustained what Heath called a “bad bang” on one of his calves when the team trained Tuesday at Allianz Field and the calf remained “really swollen” on Wednesday. He called Lod a gameday decision for Friday. Midfielder Jacori Hayes also has a “slight pull,” Heath said.
• Heath said two-time MLS Defender of the Year Ike Opara, who missed all of the tournament, remains out for Friday.
• The Loons are waiting for government paperwork before recently signed French defender Bakaye Dibassy catches “the next flight here,” Heath said. He’ll have to complete quarantine as well.
• They’re waiting, too, on paperwork to complete signing Argentinian midfielder Emanuel Reynoso. “We’re hopeful of getting him in sooner than later,” Heath said.