Minnesota United has seen its playmakers deliver so far on the big stage of the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs and second-year goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has been no exception on that list so far.
The Canadian shot-stopper extended his shutout streak to 308 minutes on Thursday after helping the Loons reach their first Western Conference Final following a 3-0 road win over Sporting KC. St. Clair wasn’t the No. 1 option coming into 2020 for the Loons, but since has taken hold of the starting job following Tyler Miller’s season-ending injury this summer.
“He’s really good,” Adrian Heath said of St. Clair. “We knew that. 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 [St. Clair]. 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.”
“And, 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.”
St. Clair was tested early and often in Kansas City on Thursday, coming up with a clutch save in the first minute on Ilie Sanchez. His defender Michael Boxall proceeded to make a goal-line clearance, keeping the Loons level in the early stages of the match. From that point on, the Loons rolled to a comfortable victory.
“I think the first, what is it, ten or fifteen minutes Dayne [St. Clair] comes up huge for us, twice, and mine was just being in the right place at the right time,” Boxall said. “That kind of really got us into the game, allowed us to get the ball to [Kevin] Molino and [Emmanuel Reynoso up higher, and I mean those guys are just so much fun to watch, they are class, and what they did in the first half was pretty special”
The 23-year-old stayed on top of his game though, denying Johnny Russell and Roberto Puncec later in the first half. He late repelled Erik Hurtado’s effort after halftime, keeping a third-consecutive clean sheet and helping the Loons to a first-ever win over SKC in the process.
St. Clair’s recent success is no shock for how highly rated he was coming out of the University of Maryland. After excelling for the Terrapins, St. Clair signed a Generation Adidas deal and was taken No. 7 by the Loons in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. After heading out on loan in 2019 and in part of 2020, the Canadian looks ready to play a major role for the Loons going forward.
“I could kind of tell half way through last season,” Boxall said. “Just from in the work that they did and all the small-sided games, he’s absolutely class. 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 ceilings pretty high for this kid.”
St. Clair has been consistent all season for the Loons, posting six clean sheets in his 13 appearances and also saving a pair of penalty shots. More importantly, he’s developing into more of a professional goalkeeper with these consistent minutes and now has the chance to be part of a special third season for Minnesota United.
After helping eliminate the Colorado Rapids and Sporting KC, St. Clair will look to continue his strong postseason with an upset win over the Seattle Sounders next week.
“I know I’m more than capable,” St. Clair said. “It’s just about putting the performances in and having the confidence. I felt like going into each game that I can keep a clean sheet, and I look forward to keep it going because every time I step on the pitch, that’s my goal.”
“I think it’s been a whirlwind for us, 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. 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.”