Left-back Marc Burch experienced a unique milestone in his recovery process from bilateral sports hernia surgery at Minnesota United practice Wednesday.

"I just sneezed out there. It was the first time I could sneeze in, like, a year without hurting," Burch said. "So that's nice."

The defender has been out since his June 20 operation but has struggled with groin injuries since his March 31 trade to United from the Colorado Rapids. Burch said the injury has actually been off and on for about a year. Coming to the Loons and training hard on turf at the National Sports Center's indoor facility for his first few weeks with the club made the injury worse.

Burch was mostly able to play through it, starting and playing nine matches for 783 minutes. But he said he eventually just felt like it was the best option to take care of the lingering injury for good with the surgery.

After rehabbing on the sidelines, the 33-year-old rejoined full practices with the team last week. While his body still feels like it is in preseason mode with the typical muscle soreness of returning to match fitness, in general Burch said he feels "way better."

"Injury takes a toll mentally, just because you're away from the guys a lot, not competing, not having fun, not getting all the laughs and smiles," Burch said. "It's just hard work in the gym and then it's hard work running, and you see guys in the locker room for a minute and then it's, like, it's over. So that was a tough two months for me. But it's nice to be out here this week."

Burch added that he is just looking forward to continuing to become healthier. Whether he will be available for the 7 p.m. Sunday match at the Seattle Sounders FC is still to be determined.

Other notes: Forward Christian Ramirez trained separately again Wednesday, still recovering from his hamstring injury. Midfielder Sam Cronin also watched from the sidelines after missing Tuesday's practice because of a slight injury he endured in Monday's session.

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