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D.C. United’s Steven Birnbaum to miss 2-3 months of MLS season after second ankle surgery

Steven Birnbaum is entering his eighth MLS season, all with United. (Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post)

D.C. United captain Steven Birnbaum will miss the first two to three months of the MLS season after undergoing a second surgery on his left ankle, club officials said Monday.

Birnbaum, a 30-year-old center back entering his eighth season, was injured last season and underwent surgery in January to remove bone spurs and loose fragments.

He was expected back in eight to 12 weeks and, about 10 days ago, General Manager Dave Kasper said Birnbaum would return near the end of training camp. However, the team’s medical staff determined an additional operation was necessary to decompress nerves and remove part of the talus bone with chronic inflammation.

Birnbaum underwent surgery Friday in Green Bay, Wis.

The timetable for recovery is 12 to 15 weeks, which would mean June or early July. United will open the season April 17 at Audi Field against New York City FC.

Until the abbreviated 2020 season, Birnbaum averaged 27 starts each year since being selected in the first round of the 2014 draft. He played every minute in 2018 and all but 28 minutes the following season.

Before the Birnbaum setback, new coach Hernán Losada was expected to choose from his four experienced center backs to fill three slots on the back line.

Now, Frédéric Brillant, Donovan Pines and Brendan Hines-Ike seem certain to start together in a system that is also likely to include two wing backs. Former coach Ben Olsen typically played with two center backs and two fullbacks.

The other center back on the depth chart is Michael DeShields, a first-round draft pick from Wake Forest.

Birnbaum isn’t the only regular recovering from surgery. Goalkeeper Bill Hamid (hernia) is expected to begin full workouts in a few weeks, and midfielder Felipe Martins (ACL) is aiming to return in May.

United on Monday entered its second week of camp by traveling to Cary, N.C., for seven days of workouts and a friendly Saturday against the Greenville (S.C.) Triumph, the third-division champion.