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Whether it's made to Canada's World Cup-bound national team or Minnesota United management, young goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair used an unexpected opportunity to deliver a message in his 1-0 shutout victory Sunday at New York Red Bulls, the Loons' first win of the season.

St. Clair made Sunday's surprise start his first in a MLS regular-season game since a loss at Colorado on May 8, 2021. He did so after veteran Tyler Miller fell too ill to start. St. Clair learned at a team meeting three hours before opening kick he'd be that night's starter.

So St. Clair stepped forth, made eight saves of all varieties, stopped a crucial early penalty kick and recorded a clean sheet that leaves his team 1-0-2 against Philadelphia, Nashville and now Red Bulls to start the season.

"Opportunities like this don't come too often," he said afterward. "I want to be a starter for this team, in this league. So just know when I get an opportunity, I'm going to take it."

He did so two seasons ago when Miller underwent August hip surgeries and St. Clair led his team within minutes of making the MLS Cup final. He started a first-round playoff loss at Portland last season on short notice after Miller tested positive for COVID-19.

On Sunday, St. Clair was the backstop who made teammate Luis Amarilla's 51st-minute volley goal stand as winner the rest of the night.

"That's why we say to players you never know what's going to turn it for you," Loons coach Adrian Heath said. "You never know. What he has done is put his head down and trained really, really well. Like I said to him, you know what happens in football: It can change at the flick of a switch. He has gotten an opportunity and he's taken it tonight."

St. Clair knows Heath and his staff were watching. He hopes Canada's national team executives were, too, because November's World Cup is fast approaching and he is still holding out hope he will make that team somehow.

He wants to be the Loons' starting goalkeeper and part of Canada's leading qualifying team so far. He has expressed his ambitions to Heath.

"He's very frustrated at the moment, I get that," Heath said.

St. Clair made his case Sunday against an opponent that won its first two road games at San Jose and Toronto by a combined 7-2. He did so with another improvised back-line combination after starters Bakaye Dibassy, Romain Metanire and Chase Gasper all didn't play.

He stopped those eight shots he faced and remained perfect stopping regular-season penalty kicks.

Opponents now are 0-4 in such situations after St. Clair dived left in the 14th minute and smothered Red Bulls star striker Patryk Klimala's penalty kick awarded when video review called a hand ball on emergency right back Hassani Dotson.

He's 7-for-8 if you count preseason play.

Heath attributes St. Clair's success to his 6-3 height, his range and goalkeeper coach Stewart Kerr's homework that predicted Klimala would aim to the goalkeeper's left.

"It's a mental battle," St. Clair said. "The bigger the moment, all eyes on me. I think those are the moments I like to shine."

The Loons scored the only goal St. Clair needed when Amarilla's right-footed strike knocked Hassani Dotson's curling cross to the far post past Red Bulls goalkeeper Carlos Coronel on the short side.

"He's a good finisher, full stop," Heath said. "If we provide the ammunition for him, he will score goals. Technically, he's really good and he's very, very smart where he positions himself."

The Loons withstood the Red Bulls' late push and barrage to stay undefeated. They started last season 0-4 and still made the playoffs.

"I'm quite pleased," Heath said. "I know going to Philly, coming here and playing Nashville would be a very difficult start. But it sets us up for next week (a home game against San Jose). If were to get a result, that'd be eight points in four games and that would be a really good start."

The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews after the game.