Help put a figurative donut on the scoreboard, get rewarded with a real donut to eat. That has been the impetus in playing for Minnesota United this season.
Goalkeeper Tyler Miller is rewarding teammates for keeping zero on the scoresheet in a game by buying donuts from various bakeries. He rescues them when the team regroups for regeneration sessions at the National Sports Center in Blaine.
The Loons love a sugar fix, but for fitness-focused soccer players, the reward can pose a bit of a dilemma over the proper breakfast food.
After the LA Galaxy’s 3-0 draw on September 18, Miller brought up the donut hole, “which has gone down a treat,” shared center back Michael Boxall. “You don’t mind when they’re tiny little ones, not guilty of letting them down. But always a good way to start the week.”
Miller has pitched Cardigan Donuts, Heights Bakery, and after Saturday’s 2-0 win over Houston, he brought some from Bogarts Donut Company. “I’m slowly making my way around the donut shops,” Miller said.
Miller has nine shutouts this season and is going for No. 10 when the Loons face DC United at Audi Field on Wednesday night.
Another shutout would tie Miller’s career high with LAFC in 2018; He followed it up with nine in 2019. He had only one of six MLS regular-season games in 2020 before the pandemic interrupted him, then double hip surgery ended his season.
Miller is quick to point out that his success is only possible because of the defense in front of him. When the Loons lacked goals this season, the stout defense has been better stable and kept them above the playoff line in the Western Conference.
The Loons are sixth in MLS and are only allowed 29 goals in 25 games. He has also scored 29 runs.
Against Houston, Miller made eight saves, one on his own goal of a boxel. “First half, I even gave him a little tester,” Boxall joked on Saturday.
Miller got the idea for the reward from LAFC goalkeeper coach Jacques Abdel. “(He) just goes a long way to rewarding people big or small for their efforts and letting them know that you appreciate them,” Miller said. “To me, it’s something short and simple, but you see people rally behind it and everyone gets excited to come to training the next day and get a little reward for the whole team’s effort.”
Even manager Adrian Heath made treats on Monday, and the latest batch was the opposite of the mini donut hole.
“They were the biggest donuts I’ve ever seen in my life,” Heath said. “… these are like (mini) pizzas. But it’s a nice little tradition that’s going on and friends are definitely looking forward to it.”