This is the first in a four part series previewing Minnesota United as we approach the 2021 season and the Loons 5th in Major League Soccer. In each part we will take a look at a different group of players, how they’ve performed in the past, and what we can expect from them going forward.
We begin with what could easily be considered to be the strongest area MNUFC has, Goalkeepers.
As camp begins MNUFC has four GK’s under contract, those being: Adrian Zendejas, Dayne St. Clair, Fred Emmings, and Tyler Miller. Those four players form what is more than likely one of, if not the strongest unit of players Minnesota has under contract. A super star in Tyler Miller, a young star who will probably have a great future in Europe with Dayne St. Clair. Adrian Zendejas, a young veteran with USL Championship experience. And finally the teenage St. Paul native and Minnesota’s first ever homegrown player in Fred Emmings.
Heading up the Goalkeeper brigade is the 27 year old Tyler Miller. Miller was acquired by MNUFC ahead of the 2020 season in a trade with Los Angeles Football Club on 1/16/2020. Miller played 61 games with LAFC starting all of those games in his two seasons in So Cal. In that time period Miller would go 34-10-17 (W-L-D) with 19 clean sheets to his name over the two years.
Heading into his first season with MNUFC, Miller looked to be continually getting better and looked to be the long term answer to the Loons goalkeeper carousel. Miller would start the opening two games of 2020 in Portland and San Jose allowing 1 and 2 goals respectively. Then the pandemic hit before anyone could really hit their stride.
When the league came back for the MLS is Back Tournament in June in Orlando, Miller was back in goal for the Loons. Miller would start all three Round Robin games for MNUFC allowing a total of 3 goals and earning one clean sheet as the Loons went 1-0-2 (W-L-D) to advance to the knockout stage. Miller would return in the Knockout stage, garnering wins against Columbus in PK’s and San Jose. Both games where he only allowed one goal. The Semi-Finals saw him allow three goals as the Loons dropped the match to Orlando City SC.
Following the MLS is Back Tournament, Miller and the club would announce he was undergoing season ending hip surgery.
At 27 years old and with him recovered from hip surgery the sky could very well be the limit for Miller in goal for MNUFC. And he would make a strong case to start for the club, but one person may have a stronger case.
Dayne St. Clair:
That one player who could make a stronger case to start in 2021 is Dayne St. Clair. DSC was drafted out of the University of Maryland with the 7th overall pick in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft. St. Clair was loaned out to then affiliate Forward Madison FC in 2019 where he made 5 appearances going 2-2-1, allowing 4 goals, and having one clean sheet.
In 2020 he was initially loaned out to San Antonio FC where he again made 5 appearances before being recalled by MNUFC. In those five matches DSC would go 3-0-2 allowing just three goals and garnering two clean sheets in the USL Championship.
After being recalled St. Clair would initially serve as backup to Greg Ranjitsingh, who had been picked up in the 2019 End of Year Waiver Draft. After three less than stellar starts by Ranjitsingh, who allowed 8 goals in those three games, Dayne was thrusted in as starter. From that point on the Loons would not look back with him in goal. Over the 13 games he started in 2020 the Loons were 6-2-5 (W-L-D). Dayne allowed just 12 goals, getting 6 clean sheets, and going 349 minutes without allowing a goal (a new club record) and doing that in the midst of the Loons 10 game unbeaten streak.
Entering the 2020 MLS Cup Playoffs, DSC would knock it out of the park in the first two rounds. Going another 180 minutes without allowing a goal and picking up two more clean sheets as the Loons routed Colorado and Sporting KC 3-0 each in the first two rounds. Sadly the magic wouldn’t last through the Western Conference Final as MNUFC fell 3-2 to Seattle Sounders after the Sounders made as storming comeback in the final 15 minutes.
Without question it appears that Dayne St. Clair should be the starter for Minnesota this season and MNUFC fans should enjoy him while he’s here. Based on his skill it shouldn’t be too long before European teams come calling for the 23 year old Canadian and Minnesota United should either be prepared to sell and replace him or shell out the money he will inevitably want to stay in MLS.
Adrian Zendejas and Fred Emmings:
The last two goalkeepers on our list we’ll look at as a pair. First up is the older 25 year old Adrian Zendejas. He was acquired by MNUFC from Nashville SC on September 17th, 2020 for the almost explicit reason of being a backup or third keeper. Zendejas has made one lone start in MLS play, that being for SKC in 2019 where he allowed one goal. However he made four other starts for SKC between the CONCACAF Champions League and US Open Cup. However a large majority of his time was spent in the USL Championship for Swope Park Rangers/SKC II where he made 54 starts across regular season and playoff allowing 68 goals for a 1.81 GAA and getting 20 clean sheets.
Zendejas could be in a similar position to what Dayne was in 2019 and was expected to be in 2020 as well as what Bobby Shuttleworth was at the end of 2019. A player who is loaned out to a USL side to be their starter so he is getting minutes but is recalled if the Minnesota needs him on the roster.
Fred Emmings on the other hand is an 18 year old who does not have any professional experience at this time. More than likely his development will continue as normal with him training with the first team while possibly getting minutes with any U-19 squad MNUFC may have. Once the MLS Reserve League is re-introduced, which seems to be planned for as early as 2022, that could be the landing spot for Emmings until he is ready for First Team minutes.
At the end of the day Minnesota has two nearly elite level goalkeepers with a decent to good third option and a teenager in development, making this grouping the strongest position in the Loons depth chart.
Stay tuned to E Pluribus Loonum for all your 2021 MNUFC and Major League Soccer needs.