Before the world turned upside down Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United’s goalkeeper of the future, was given the opportunity to get much-needed quality minutes, being loaned to USL Championship side San Antonio FC back in February.
Although a global pandemic pushed that opportunity back a few months, St. Clair proved he was ready to seize the stage when the league restarted play in July.
“Coach [Alen] Marcina asked me about this keeper Dayne that was available, and I just jumped right away at the opportunity because I had been following him,” said San Antonio Director of Goalkeeping Juan Lamadrid in a phone conversation. “We were very happy to have him here for all these months and have the experience to work with him and get to see his potential.”
That high praise comes from a coach in Lamadrid who’s worked with the likes of U.S. Men’s National Team Goalkeeper Brad Guzan as well as MLS veterans Josh Saunders and David Bingham. Not to mention his 12 years as a pro in Mexico.
St. Clair’s first appearance for San Antonio came on July 20, and the 23-year-old started every one of the team’s first five games post-restart. In those appearances, St. Clair allowed a total of three goals and notched three clean sheets, earning Man of the Match and Save of the Week honors during his short stay in U.S. Soccer’s second tier.
“As a part of the team, he just right away blended into the culture of the club, and he was very humble as well,” said Lamadrid. “He’s a winner, you know? He hates to lose.”
In addition to coaching St. Clair and helping guide his development while down south, Lamadrid had a daily front row seat to watch the budding superstar showcase all of his skills both on the practice pitch and, obviously, in games.
“His footwork is one of a kind that you don’t see in the U.S.,” raved Lamadrid. “I think he has all the tools and talent to go beyond MLS for sure.”
Although the 2019 Generation Adidas SuperDraft pick had only played in less than a month’s worth of matches on his loan, Minnesota United announced Wednesday at St. Clair had been recalled after starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller underwent successful hip surgery.
Currently in a league-mandated 10-day quarantine due to the travel back to Minnesota, St. Clair will not be available for the Loons’ opening phase one matchup with Sporting Kansas City Friday night at Allianz Field, and all indications are the starting job is now fellow Canadian Greg Ranjitsingh’s to lose once St. Clair is available.
“Dayne played a couple of games for us this time last year and did excellent,” Minnesota United Coach Adrian Heath said in a conference call with media this week. “We would have no qualms [inserting St. Clair] if something happened to Greg.”
Having heavily invested in St. Clair, both with a top tier draft pick and financially, many United faithful are scratching their heads as to why he won’t be given a real chance to start. A sentiment that’s echoed by the man who watched him closest in San Antonio.
“He was growing by the minute in every game,” said Lamadrid. “As a goalkeeper, you just need games. You need the rhythm.”
St. Clair’s first taste of professional playing time came last season during a loan from Minnesota to USL League One’s Forward Madison, where the Maryland alum secured four shutouts in five starts. In total, St. Clair’s made 10 appearances at the USL level since being drafted by Minnesota, tallying seven clean sheets.
As Heath mentioned, St. Clair also found time with the first team during a pair of international friendlies last summer.
So what should happen with “DSC” now that he’s back in a Loons uniform? On one hand, it makes sense to recall St. Clair regardless of whether or not he starts. Your only other healthy backup option is a 16-year old homegrown academy player who, while making excellent strides in training with the first team, is nowhere near ready to take on MLS duties.
But what about his development? All St. Clair has done since turning pro is show he can perform and do everything asked of him, and at least one experienced goalkeepers coach believes it’s time for him to be given a legitimate MLS starting opportunity.
“To me, he’s ready,” said Lamadrid. “After a couple games he’ll just keep going up and up and up.”
And his ceiling?
“He can play overseas without a problem.”