Minnesota United on Thursday acquired its goalkeeper for this coming season and it’s not 2019 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Vito Mannone nor longtime Premier League star Joe Hart.
Instead, the Loons traded with LAFC for Tyler Miller, with preseason training’s start in Blaine four days away.
United sent $150,000 in general allocation money in 2020 and $50,000 in targeted allocation money in 2021 to LAFC for a goalkeeper who made $77,565 last season but sought a sizable pay raise after he played out his contract.
Miller reached agreement on a new deal with United through 2022 — with a team option in 2023 — to complete the trade.
The Loons also have reached contract agreements with Paraguayan striker Luis Amarilla and USL Championship league defensive midfielder/center back James Musa, according to a source.
The Loons made trades similar to Miller’s deal at this time last year when they obtained veterans Ozzie Alonso and Ike Opara. Alonso was seeking a bigger contract from Seattle and Opara from Sporting Kansas City.
United dealt for Miller’s rights after new technical director Mark Watson said Mannone, a key in the Loons’ improved defense last year, declined two offers that would have made him MLS’s best-paid player at his position, beyond Atlanta keeper Brad Guzan and his $740,000 salary.
The Loons had conversations with other potential goalkeepers and made Hart an offer before they traded for Miller. The deal is the second between the two teams; the Loons sent star Christian Ramirez to LAFC in August 2018.
Miller, 26, started 28 games for LAFC last season and 33 the season before that. He was LAFC’s first pick in the expansion draft before the 2018 season. He went 18-2-8 last season for a team whose league-best record earned the MLS 2019 Supporters’ Shield. He has started three playoff games.
Miller, called to the U.S. men’s national team for last summer’s Gold Cup, didn’t finish the MLS season as well as he started it.
New Jersey-raised and Northwestern-educated, he does not occupy a valued international-player spot that Mannone or Hart would have.
United coach Adrian Heath, in a statement, said goalkeeping coach Stuart Kerr “thinks the upside is huge with this guy.”
The 6-4 Miller backed up veteran keeper Stefan Frei in Seattle for two seasons.
“I know he’s a top goalkeeper,” Frei told reporters during last fall’s playoffs. “Honestly, I have been surprised he hasn’t been able to get a bigger look with the national team. His frame, his demeanor, I know the way he approaches his craft. I really want to see him succeed. I have high expectations for him.
“I want him to really get in the pot for the national-team goalkeeper and possibly claim it for himself.”
Miller’s arrival is the Loons’ first major move in an offseason that, until Thursday, had only included acquiring midfielder Marlon Hairston from Houston in a trade that sent away star designated player Darwin Quintero.
Miller becomes the starter on a team that has young goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair, who could be loaned out this season, and backup Gregory Ranjitsingh, whom it acquired in November’s waiver draft.
As for Amarilla, he will help Mason Toye fill a “No. 9” scoring spot for a team that lost former No. 1 overall pick Abu Danladi to Nashville in the expansion draft. United is expected to loan or trade Angelo Rodriguez before the season.
The Loons could use its third designated-player spot on a “No. 10” playmaking midfielder now that they have traded Quintero. Amarilla, 24, led Ecuador’s top division with 19 goals scored in 24 games in a breakout season last year on loan from a club in Argentina.
Musa, 27, was born in England, raised in New Zealand and has played professionally in both countries as well as Australia. He played one MLS game with Sporting Kansas City in 2017 and played for the USL’s Phoenix Rising the last two seasons.
Musa will be the Loons’ third New Zealander, joining veteran Michael Boxall and rookie Noah Billingsley, both defenders.