While Dayne St. Clair wears No. 99, his brief is stopping goals not scoring them. And the Canadian goalkeeper is exceedingly good at it.
The 21-year-old from Pickering, Ont., finished his collegiate career at the University of Maryland in December by winning the NCAA championship. He did not concede a goal in five games at the tournament and ended his time as a Terrapin on a 500-minute shutout run.
The six-foot-four St. Clair is projected to go high in Friday’s MLS SuperDraft in Chicago. An underclassman, his value is raised by having signed a Generation Adidas contract that won’t count against the salary cap.
“He knows how to win,” said Carmine Isacco, a former Maryland ‘keeper and current head coach of the Vaughan Soccer Club in suburban Toronto.
“He’s the best goalkeeper I know who’s at his best when he needs to be at his best.” he added. “Just like he showed in the NCAA tournament.”
Asked if St. Clair has the goods to play in MLS, Isacco replied: “Absolutely.”
A remarkable shot-stopper, St. Clair also excels at distributing the ball — a key skill for the modern goalie.
“His distribution is fantastic,” said Isacco. “By far the best I’ve seen in a long long time.”
Brian Rowland, a former Maryland assistant coach who is now head coach of the Temple University men’s team, helped recruit St. Clair.
“He’s got a great presence, confidence around him … He’s got a feel for the game,” said Rowland, a native of Toronto and former ‘keeper himself. “Very much a modern goalkeeper.”
Valour FC coach and GM Rob Gale, during his time as a Canadian youth coach, gave St. Clair his debut for Canada against Norway at an under-16 tournament in Italy in 2013.
“We always have known about his talent, no question,” said Gale. ”We thought it’s going to be ‘when rather than if’ he was going to make something of himself.”
The time appears to be now.
Last season at Maryland, St. Clair conceded 16 goals in 23 games — giving up a goal every 137 minutes on average.
St. Clair developed at Ajax FC under Dario Gasparotto, now a staff coach at FC Durham Academy. He then joined Vaughan Soccer Club where he worked closely with Patrice Gheisar.
He was recruited by Maryland, which was looking for a replacement for Zach Steffen (who went on to play in MLS before moving recently to Manchester City.
After limited action as a freshman, St. Clair redshirted as a sophomore in 2016 to focus on Canada’s under-20 team. He ended up backing up Thomas Hasal at the CONCACAF Under-20 Championship in early 2017.
While disappointed at his lack of playing time and Canada’s failure to move on to the FIFA U-20 World Cup, he says being part of the Canadian team remains one of his proudest moments.
And he says those experiences prepared him for his last two seasons at Maryland where he has excelled.
Confidence is not an issue for a ‘keeper who admits to living for ”big plays.”
An error by St. Clair gifted a goal in his opening game at the MLS Combine in Orlando. He saw it as an opportunity to show how he moves on.
St. Clair started as an outfield player, making the move to goalkeeper at age 14.
He initially wore No. 9 (for his birthday) and then No. 17. When he became a goalie, he eschewed the traditional No. 1, saying “I kind of don’t see myself as the regular goalie.”
At Maryland, No. 9 and No. 17 were both taken. So he doubled up and chose No. 99.
“He’s his own person and he’s got his way about him. But he backs it up with quality,” said Isacco.
St. Clair is one of six Canadians looking to impress at the MLS Combine ahead of the draft.
The others are Syracuse forward Tajon Buchanan (Brampton, Ont.), Simon Fraser winger-forward Mamadi Camara (Montreal), UNC-Charlotte defender Callum Montgomery (Victoria), North Carolina defender Alex Comsia (North Vancouver) and Syracuse defender Kamal Miller (Toronto).
Buchanan also signed a Generation Adidas contract.
Toronto is the only Canadian team with a first-round pick Friday. Montreal and Vancouver traded their top picks away.