Take notice, Canada: Dayne St. Clair makes World Cup & Minnesota United case with RBNY performance

Dayne St. Clair wants to be a starting goalkeeper in Major League Soccer. He needs to be a starting goalkeeper in Major League Soccer to get back in the mix for Canada, which is on the verge of qualifying for a World Cup for the first time since 1986.

But those opportunities have proved fleeting since Minnesota United FC manager Adrian Heath went with Tyler Miller as his No. 1 goalkeeper for most of the 2021 season and the start of 2022.

Yet with Miller a late scratch due to the flu Sunday night, St. Clair had his chance and took it with both hands. The 24-year-old made eight saves, including a penalty kick denial, to lead the Loons to a 1-0 win at the New York Red Bulls.

“Opportunities like this don’t come often. I want to be a starter for this team, in this league,” St. Clair said after the match. “I know that when I get an opportunity like this I got to take it, similar to how I did it two years ago.”

Two years ago, St. Clair was thrust into the starting role when Miller had surgery on both of his hips in July 2020.

In his second season as a pro, St. Clair backstopped the Loons on their march to the Western Conference Final.

He started in 2021's early days but was replaced by Miller after the club got off to an 0W-4L-0D opening. St. Clair’s next start came in a 3-1 loss at the Portland Timbers in Round One of the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs after Miller was sidelined due to MLS health & safety protocols.

Heath announced Miller would be MNUFC's starter ahead of the 2022 season and St. Clair voiced his frustrations with the Englishman about his lack of playing time, especially in a World Cup year. He's earned one cap for Les Rouges, a June 2021 World Cup qualifier against Aruba, with Milan Borjan and LAFC's Maxime Crepeau top choice under manager John Herdman.

“Obviously, he’s very frustrated at the minute, and I get that,” Heath said. “The World Cup around the corner, it’s looking like Canada are going to go there so he’s desperate to be playing. But the one thing, as he proved, I said to him, 'You know what happens in football, it can change like a flick of the switch.' And suddenly he’s got an opportunity and he’s taken it today.”

St. Clair made a game-changing save to deny Patryk Klimala from the penalty spot early, improving to a perfect 4-of-4 in PK saves for his MLS career.

“When the players can see my size in the net, hopefully the goal feels a little bit smaller,” said St. Clair, a 2019 MLS SuperDraft first-round selection. “I think my reaction time is great so I can kind of wait for the striker to go instead of having to guess earlier. The work that [Minnesota United goalkeeping coach Stuart Kerr] does behind the scene is obviously incredible as well.”

St. Clair also stretched out to get a foot on a point-blank chance by Omir Fernandez early in the second half and charged off his line to take the ball away from Aaron Long, who got behind the Loons backline.

“He’s got a lot of inner belief and he’s a confident boy in general,” Heath said. “He’s got a belief in his own ability. He’s not happy being second fiddle all season and he’s let me know that. But that’s part of my job.”

The Loons have reportedly entertained trade offers for St. Clair, who signed a new three-year deal with Minnesota last November, from both the New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps FC. But Minnesota’s asking price was reportedly too steep.

“We’ve got four goalkeepers and we’re not giving them away,” Heath said. “We will make decisions as and when we feel fit. But trust me, you can’t have enough good goalkeepers. So if we keep them, we keep them. If somebody offers us enough money, then maybe we’d have to think about it. But at this moment in time, I’ve got no thoughts of trading any of them or selling.”