With only last season’s starting goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth currently on the roster, Minnesota United selected another one — Dayne St. Clair of the University of Maryland — with the seventh overall pick in the MLS SuperDraft.
Described in his college bio as a 6-4 “athletic shot stopper with a flair for the dramatic,” he arrived at the draft Friday in Chicago dressed for the occasion. He wore a vibrant blue suit, patterned shirt, red bow tie and black sockless loafers.
“I wanted to make a statement to the person I am, the player I am,” the 21-year-old St. Clair said. “This is my statement.”
He made his statement to MLS executives and coaches as a goalkeeper when the Terrapins didn’t surrender a goal in five NCAA tournament games en route to the 2018 championship.
Soon after it selected St. Clair, United sent $50,000 in general allocation money to Chicago for the 15th overall pick. The team that allowed far too many goals its first two MLS season further addressed the issue by selecting St. Clair’s college teammate/roommate, Maryland left back Chase Gasper.
Now headed to Minnesota together, they had better like each other.
“Oh, yeah, we’re great friends,” Gasper said, laughing. “This is incredible, can’t believe it. We were sitting in the same row and it was great to hear his name called. I was thinking in my head, `Dang, it was fun playing with him, I hope I get another goalie that’s half as good as him.’ ”
Gasper, 22, played his first three collegiate seasons at UCLA with Abu Danladi, whom the Loons took first overall in the 2017 SuperDraft. He also played for the same youth academy as United defender Carter Manley.
Asked by phone how long those two Terrapins can keep that scoreless streak intact, St. Clair said, “Hopefully, long enough.”
With the 31st pick overall, United took Oregon State central midfielder Hassani Dotson in the second round. It owns two more picks in Monday’s fourth round of a draft that almost exclusively delivers developmental players.
United Sporting Director Manny Lagos said he and his staff identified all three players as ones they wanted in what he termed their “best-fit type of draft.” They had other options ready if St. Clair was selected before the seventh pick. Team officials took an extra four-minute timeout after they went on the clock to consider offers from teams wanting to move up.
“We just really wanted to take a deep breath and assess the value of the pick versus the player,” Lagos said.
They chose to take and keep St. Clair because of what United coach Adrian Heath called his “sheer athleticism” and “unbelievable potential.” Lagos noted St. Clair’s height, length and admires what he calls St. Clair’s “great feet” and his ability to control and advance the ball with them, a skill Lagos said grows more valuable as the game evolves.
St. Clair, born in Canada, was raised in a Toronto suburb. His father is from Trinidad and his mother is Canadian of Scottish descent. His father, Wayne, also was a goalkeeper. The younger St. Clair called himself “inspired” by his father’s love for the game and the position, even though he was a defender and midfielder “from the time I could walk,” he said. He decided at age 13 that goalkeeping was his future.
Eight years later, he doesn’t disagree that he’s athletic with that flair for the dramatic.
“I didn’t write that, but a lot of people have brought it up to me,” St. Clair said. “I consider myself a modern-day goalie. I have good athletic ability, but I also know at the next level there are parts of my game I’ll have to refine to be successful.”
He was the first goalkeeper drafted – “definitely a big accomplishment, something I wanted to do,” he said – and the third consecutive Generation Adidas prospect chosen by United with its first SuperDraft pick. That designation means his salary doesn’t count on the salary cap. The Loons took Danladi first overall in 2017 and Indiana’s Mason Toye seventh in 2018.
United paid to get Gasper, too, because Loons management likes his build, left foot and speed.
United, which added midfielders Ozzie Alonso and Jan Gregus with its first two big offseason moves, still is believed to be seeking a starting goalkeeper with Shuttleworth and St. Clair also on the roster. It’s also thought to be after a right back, among another two or three more notable players it would like to add. French sports newspaper L’Equipe reported United has made right back Romain Metanire a two-year offer to leave his club in France’s top league.
In time, St. Clair might have the kind of upside that fetches a hefty transfer fee someday. Heath compared him to former Maryland and Columbus Crew goalkeeper Zack Steffen, who at age 23 recently was sold to the Premier League’s Manchester City for a fee that could surpass $10 million.
“His instincts are fantastic,” Gasper said. “We wouldn’t have won the national championship without him. Fantastic feet. He’s a big lad. That helps out in goal.”