ORLANDO – In his first start as a professional goalkeeper, albeit in a preseason friendly, Minnesota United’s Dayne St. Clair played like a seasoned veteran.
St. Clair helped preserve Minnesota United’s clean sheet against NYCFC, turning away multiple chances from the Pigeons and securing the Loons’ second win of the Orlando City Invitational. Minnesota United defeated NYCFC 1-0 on Wednesday in Orlando City Stadium.
St. Clair played a full 90 minutes against NYCFC — another first for the rookie.
“I think there’s definitely room for improvement in some things, but I think as an overall thing, I’m happy,” St. Clair said. “But there’s obviously things to work on.”
St. Clair’s performance was one of the few positives that visibility frustrated Minnesota United coach Adrian Heath could take from Wednesday’s match.
“Disappointed,” Heath said. “Disappointed with the ball. Disappointing without the ball. Disappointing in transition. It was a poor evening from us. How we’ve won the game, I don’t know, because I don’t think we’ll ever give the ball away as much as we have tonight. Our lack of energy was alarming. I know it’s that time in preseason. People are tired. We’ve been on the road a long way, but it was a disappointing evening.”
Heath was a bit more positive when talking about St. Clair’s performance.
“He had to, you know? He was busy this evening,” Heath said about St. Clair. “He can be pleased with his night’s work. He’s done some good stuff. Used the ball well with his week. Made some big saves when he needed to.”
For the second match in a row, Minnesota United opened the scoring thanks to an opponent’s mistake. Midfielder Miguel Ibarra – who scored the Loons’ only goal in a 1-0 win over the New England Revolution – received a long ball from midfielder Rasmus Schuller on the right side of the penalty area and sent in a cross.
NYCFC centerback Ben Sweat got a foot on the cross, but sent the ball into his own net, giving the Loons a 1-0 lead in the 26th minute.
The Pigeons generated chances throughout the first half but were turned away throughout the first 45 minutes. St. Clair saved a close-range shot from forward Jonathan Lewis in the 16th minute. That chance was NYCFC’s best of the first half.
It was more of the same in the second half. Minnesota United’s attack lacked teeth, but the defense, which has given up at least 70 goals in back-to-back regular seasons, was stout.
“I don’t think we put more than three or four passes together all evening,” Heath said. “We were lackluster in the transition, took too long to get in our shape. It’s probably our defense, box defending that probably got us a clean sheet in the end because there wasn’t a lot of positives other than that.”
New York City nearly leveled the match in the 72nd minute. Midfielder Valentin Castellanos sent a ball to the left side of the penalty area and it was tapped in by an offside Maxi Moralez.
“When the ball goes in the back in the net, you hope it gets disallowed,” St. Clair said with a small smile. “So I was just happy it didn’t go in — happy it didn’t count, I should say.”
That miscue was just one of a few chances for NYCFC in the second half. St. Clair turned away another close-range shot, this time from Jesus Medina, in the 64th minute. Castellanos one-timed a ball from Anton Tinnerholm right at St. Clair from near the penalty spot, which St. Clair comfortably caught.
NYCFC kept up the pressure in the second half but couldn’t find an equalizer.
“That’s not what we’ve expected of this group,” Heath said. “I know it’s preseason. It’s hot, people want to get back home. It seems we’ve been on the road for a month, but tonight wasn’t a fair reflection of what we’ve been like in preseason.”