Minnesota United hail "top-class goalkeeper" Dayne St. Clair after playoff heroics

Dayne St. Clair - Minnesota United - Taking goal kick

Minnesota United's 3-0 rout of Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference Semifinals on Thursday may not have been possible without the early heroics of goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair.

While the Loons wound up taking the lopsided Audi MLS Cup Playoffs victory, it was Sporting that generated a flurry of early chances. Center back Michael Boxall came up with a huge goal-line clearance on Johnny Russell on one, but the rest were denied by Minnesota's 23-year-old backstop, who was the No. 7 overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. 

It was the culmination of a remarkable rise for St. Clair in 2020, who started the Loons' final 13 regular-season games.

“He’s really good. We knew that," head coach Adrian Heath said after the game. "That’s why we drafted him as high as we did. I think we have the best goalkeeping coach in the country and he was really, really high on Dayne. He kept saying to us there was going to be a time – and we probably threw him in the deep end a bit quicker than we anticipated, but he’s been fantastic.

"The one thing I can say about Dayne is he’s saved everything he should save and then he’s come up with big saves in the big moments, and that’s a top-class goalkeeper. So, he’s been terrific. And, as I say, if he keeps listening, if he keeps listening to Stew [Kerr], if he keeps doing his job, he doesn’t get carried away, injury free ... the kid has got a big future.”

Watch: Dayne St. Clair denies Roberto Puncec

St. Clair's ascent to becoming Minnesota's first-choice goalkeeper wasn't always smooth sailing, as the University of Maryland product appeared in zero MLS games in 2019. 

He was loaned in February to USL Championship side San Antonio FC, where he made five appearances before being recalled in August after starter Tyler Miller had season-ending hip surgery. Looking back at his stint away from the club – the Canadian goalkeeper also spent part of 2019 at USL League One side Forward Madison FC – St. Clair said he benefitted from getting consistent games.

“I think it’s been a whirlwind for [me], going out on loan to start the year, but I think with every game – and I think the loan was also beneficial for me because I was able to get comfortable with the games, playing games, and then I was able to come back continuing to do well," St. Clair said. "So, it’s been a great year for me and I hope to keep it going, but I just feel more and more comfortable with every game and I know I’ve played in big games before and I hope to continue to in my career.”

Watch: Dayne St. Clair stops Johnny Russell

Boxall said he's enjoyed watching his young teammate seize this opportunity, and that he also feels there are greater heights that St. Clair can reach.

“I could kind of tell halfway through last season. Just from in the work that they did and all the small-sided games, he’s absolutely class," Boxall said. "Honestly, surprised when he went out on loan. I thought he deserved a few opportunities at least, and obviously it was tougher in the beginning stuck behind a – there’s an MLS goalkeeper there – but he’s been absolutely outstanding. I’m so happy that everyone else gets to see it outside of us up at Blaine, because he’s a class goalkeeper. He’s got so much to improve on too, and I think the ceiling is pretty high for this kid.”