When Minnesota United manager Adrian Heath named Tyler Miller the No. 1 goalkeeper to start the season, it did not sit well with backup Dayne St. Clair and he relayed his feelings directly to Heath.
“I expressed my frustration because, like I said, I thought I had a really good preseason,” St. Clair recalled.
Miller started in two 1-1 draws to open the campaign and was penciled in for Sunday’s game at New York Red Bulls, but came down with the flu in the last couple days. St. Clair learned he would make his season debut during the pregame meeting and shined in the net.
St. Clair made eight saves, including one on penalty kick in the first half, and with Loons’ striker Luis Amarilla’s second-half goal, Minnesota won 1-0 at Red Bull Arena on Harrison, NJ
Minnesota improved to 1-0-2 this season, and their first victory came against the club that started the weekend leading the Eastern Conference at 2-0-0, with plus-5 goal differential.
Red Bulls had an expected goals of 3.1 on Sunday, according to MLS, but St. Clair held them to 0.0 actual goals.
“Opportunities like this don’t come often,” St. Clair said. “I want to be a starter for this team and in this league, so just know that when I get an opportunity like this, I’ve got to take it like I did two years ago.”
In July 2020, Miller opted to have season-ending surgery on both hips, and it gave St. Clair a shot in his second pro season. He seized the chance, helping take the Loans to Western Conference final.
St. Clair was the No. 1 to open 2021, but Heath went back to Miller after the club started 0-4, a hole which was not pinned on St. Clair’s play. Miller then started 30 consecutive games before he tested positive for COVID-19 and St. Clair started the MLS Cup Playoff first-round loss to Portland.
MLS clubs, including New England Revolution and Vancouver Whitecaps, have taken notice of Minnesota holding onto two starting-caliber goalkeepers and have inquired about trades. But the Loons’ asking price for St. Clair is considered to be quite steep, per reports.
“We are not giving them away,” Heath said Sunday. “We will make decisions as of when we feel fit. Trust me, you can’t have enough good goalkeepers. If we keep ’em, we keep ’em. If somebody offers us enough money, then we would have to think about it. But at this moment in time, I’ve got no thoughts of trading any of them or selling them.”
Heath said there is no deadline to move on from one of them. St. Clair, 24, signed a contract extension last year, but Miller, 28, is out of contract after this season, so this summer seems to be a prime chance to make a deal.
St. Clair is on the fringe of the Canada’s national team, which is on the verge of qualifying for FIFA World Cup in Qatar this fall. He desperately wants to be a part of that experience.
“Just wanting to get my name back in that fold and be a part of those camps,” St. Clair said. “Club football, of course, is bigger, but on a bigger scale, being a part of that World Cup roster is definitely one of my goals. In order for me to do that, I need to be playing games.”
Due to injuries and illness, Minnesota’s back seven players have been revolving throughout three games. The Loons have had three different midfield pairings, three left backs, two left-sided center backs, three right backs and two goalkeepers. Only right-sided center back Michael Boxall has been constant.
Since the 1-1 draw with Nashville last week, Bakaye Dibassy has dealt with an ankle injury and Oniel Fisher suffered a thigh injury during training Wednesday.
With those (already) backup/makeshift fullbacks out, and starters Romain Metanire and Chase Gasper each missing their third consecutive game to start 2022, Minnesota was forced to insert converted midfielder Hassani Dotson and third-stringer DJ Taylor as starting fullback.
Through it all, the Loons have conceded two goals in three games.
With the newest change, St. Clair was more than up to the task.