ORLANDO – Not so long ago but in many ways so far away, Minnesota United rookie goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair returned to Orlando City Stadium on Wednesday, started a preseason game and went the distance in a 1-0 victory over New York City FC because, well, he had to.
He was the only United goalkeeper available to play on a hot, humid afternoon because newly acquired Vito Mannone remained overseas attending to visa and immigration details and Bobby Shuttleworth had gone home to Minnesota because of a personal matter.
St. Clair made several telling saves in a game when an NYCFC defender deflected United midfielder Miguel Ibarra’s shot attempt into an own goal in the 26th minute. That stood as the winning margin for a United team that allowed so many goals the past two MLS regular seasons but recorded its third consecutive clean sheet against MLS competition and fifth overall in preseason play.
Just two months ago, St. Clair played draft combine games in that same stadium, and now he is back after United selected him seventh overall. He and current teammates Chase Gasper and Hassani Dotson all played there in January and are back for three games this week.
“When we came into the stadium for our first game, I looked at Chase and Hassani and said it feels like we were just here,” St. Clair said. “A lot of things have been going on [since then]. This is what you prepare for and what you want. I felt prepared and happy with my performance.”
United coach Adrian Heath praised St. Clair’s 90-minute performance, the only real bit of praise he had after he played his starters for the first half before rehabilitating striker Angelo Rodriguez and the second unit played the second half.
“He did what he had to do — and he had to,” Heath said. “He was busy this evening. He can be pleased with his night’s work. He has done some good stuff. He used the ball well with his feet, made big saves when he needed to.”
Other than St. Clair’s play, Heath was not happy, even though his team remained undefeated in preseason play with one game left, Saturday vs. Orlando City.
“Disappointed,” Heath said. “Disappointed with the ball. Disappointed without the ball. Disappointed in transition. It was a poor evening from us. How we won the game, I don’t know because I don’t think we’ve ever given the ball away like we did tonight. I know it’s that time of preseason and people are tired and we’ve been on the road for a long way, but it was a disappointing evening.”
Heath said Mannone has an appointment Thursday in London and could return to the team by Friday. He gave Rodriguez second-half work on his way back from what Heath calls a slight groin injury.
“He got through, which is the most important thing,” Heath said. “He didn’t feel his groin, and he got through the evening. So we’ll get a better look at him in the morning.”
Ibarra scored the only goal in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over New England and created Wednesday’s only goal after he ran down Rasmus Schuller’s long, high pass across the field and sent a shot from the right corner toward goal.
“It was a good run from Miggy,” Schuller said. “He’s sharp in those situations.”
Schuller’s team overall was not, even if it once again didn’t allow a goal.
“Of course, that is positive, but today was not a good game for us,” Schuller said. “We can’t be happy with our performance.”