Dayne St. Clair backstops Minnesota to "massive" win over Nashville SC

Dayne St. Clair is back.

Fresh off being named 2022 MLS All-Star MVP, the Minnesota United FC goalkeeper once again stood on his head, making seven saves Sunday night to lead the Loons to an important 2-1 victory against Nashville SC at GEODIS Park, moving his side five points ahead of their opponents and just a single point behind third-place FC Dallas in the Western Conference table.

“We knew it was going to be a big game, of course,” St. Clair told the FS1 broadcast crew after the match that had massive implications in the Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoff race. “Nashville are on our heels. Pushing ahead and making a gap on that playoff run was going to be big for us. We know the result and the performance [4-3 loss] in Colorado [last week] wasn’t good enough for a lot of us, myself included. To just be able to bounce back and have a performance like this has been great.”

The gutsy road victory – a club record sixth away win this season – proved to be even more important given fifth-place Real Salt Lake, just one point back, pulled off their own road win, defeating the Seattle Sounders FC 2-1 at Lumen Field in the Week 25 nightcap. As it stands, Minnesota are in line to host RSL in an Audi 2022 MLS Cup Playoff game, which would be the first postseason match at Allianz Field since 2020.

“For us to have come away from here and won the game, I’m delighted. It might be the best win on the road this season because I knew this was going to be really tough this evening,” manager Adrian Heath said in his postgame press conference. “To come away with three points is massive for us.”

St. Clair had been the subject of criticism following Minnesota’s 4-3 defeat to the Colorado Rapids in Week 24 action, with Heath telling reporters after the match that the Loons goalkeeper “had a bad night.” It was the second consecutive match that St. Clair and Minnesota allowed four goals, as questions started being asked about whether backup goalkeeper Tyler Miller deserved another look in net.

But this week, he put his naysayers to rest.

On Wednesday night, St. Clair was named 2022 MLS All-Star MVP after a solid display in goal for the MLS All-Stars, helping the team secure a 2-1 win over the Liga MX All-Stars at Allianz Field. The outing was big for his confidence, and he followed that up with Sunday’s performance, making several key stops to earn his 11th win of the season.

“I wouldn’t go as far as saying re-finding his form. I think he’s had one bad game, and when you’re a goalkeeper that could happen,” said Heath. “I thought midweek was huge for him, because to get on 30 minutes and make a couple of big saves and feel the love of the crowd … I think that helped his confidence no end, and he’s carried on from Wednesday to tonight. I’m really, really pleased with him, really pleased for him.”

“Coming out of the Colorado game, it’s no secret that I cost us points on the road there, so being able to bounce off that game and having a mental refresh at the All-Star [game] was big for me. To put on a good performance there was nice as well,” added St. Clair.

“I’m using that game to keep pushing... So, I’m glad that I was able to have a performance like that tonight and I’m hoping to build off that at home Saturday (8 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+) against Austin FC."

Like he was on Sunday, St. Clair will be counted on heavily for the Loons down the stretch as they continue their push towards the postseason. He's second in league in saves (86), second in save percentage (72.3%), and is a significant reason for Minnesota’s success so far in 2022.

Furthermore, having started just four league matches for Minnesota last season, St. Clair looks poised to secure his spot on John Herdman’s 26-player squad for Qatar later this year, as the Canadian men’s national team returns to the World Cup for the first time since 1986, drawn into Group F with Belgium, Croatia and Morocco.

He likely won’t be able to unseat No. 1 Milan Borjan and LAFC’s Max Crépeau, but the 25-year-old is doing everything he can to make the cut. Nevertheless, he’s staying in the moment and refusing to count his eggs before they hatch.

“I know that my performances week-in and week-out are going to control whether I’m on that plane or not,” wrapped up St. Clair. “Of course, I’ve been part of the last couple of camps which has been nice, but I know the plane doesn’t take off tomorrow so I just need to keep doing my job.”