Canadian goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair should feel right at home at the MLS all-star game next month.
The Aug. 10 contest against Mexico's Liga MX all-stars is taking place at Allianz Field in Minnesota, where St. Clair plays his club soccer. Minnesota coach Adrian Heath will coach the MLS all-stars.
"It's big for me personally and the club," said St. Clair, who will be joined at the game by Loons teammate Emanuel Reynoso.
Fellow Canadian Kamal Miller, a defender with CF Montreal, was chosen as one of commissioner Don Garber's two picks. Both Canadians are first-time all-star selections.
The 26-man roster was selected through a combination of fan, player, and media voting (12 players), by Heath (12 players), and Garber's two picks.
St. Clair got his chance this season with Minnesota against the Red Bulls in the third game of the season after starter Tyler Miller was sidelined by the flu.
St. Clair was rewarded with MLS player of the week honours after making eight saves, including a Patryk Klimala penalty kick, in a 1-0 Minnesota win.
The 25-year-old from Pickering, Ont., has been in goal ever since — starting 17 straight league games.
"That's what pro sports is about — taking your opportunity," he said. "I've also found out as quickly as opportunity comes, it can leave as well. I think being on both sides of that has given me a lot of perspective going forward."
St. Clair has allowed just 22 goals in his 17 starts this season. With 63 saves, he is one of only five 'keepers in MLS with at least 60 saves this season. He has won one cap for Canada and is looking to make John Herdman's World Cup squad.
"Dayne, since he's come into the team, has been outstanding," said Heath.
Miller has been a defensive stalwart in 16 games for Montreal this season and has contributed one goal and three assists in more than 1,300 minutes played. With 25 caps, the 25-year-old from Toronto has also been a key cog in Canada's back line.
St. Clair and Miller were both taken in the 2019 MLS SuperDraft, with St. Clair going in the first round (seventh overall by Minnesota) and Miller the second (27th overall by Orlando City). It was a good draft for Canadians, with Callum Montgomery going fourth overall to FC Dallas and Tajon Buchanan ninth overall by New England.
Montgomery is now a teammate of St. Clair at Minnesota while Buchanan plays in Belgium for Club Brugge.
Miller was taken in the December 2020 expansion draft by Austin FC, which traded him to Montreal.
There are no Toronto FC or Vancouver Whitecap players on the all-star roster.
The commissioner's other pick is New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson, tied for the league lead with eight clean sheets this season, including six in a row from May 1 through May 28.
Defending champions NYCFC and current Supporters’ Shield leaders Los Angeles FC each have a league-best three players on the all-star roster.
NYCFC will be represented by Valentín (Taty) Castellanos, Alexander Callens and Johnson. LAFC all-stars are Carlos Vela, Ilie Sanchez and Diego Palacios.
Sixteen clubs are represented on the all-star game roster: Austin, Cincinnati, Columbus, D.C. United, FC Dallas, Inter Miami CF, L.A. Galaxy, LAFC, Minnesota United, CF Montreal, Nashville SC, New England Revolution, New York Red Bulls, NYCFC, Philadelphia Union, and Seattle Sounders.
The players have ties to 10 different countries: Argentina (four players), Canada (two), Ecuador (one), Germany (two), Greece (one), Jamaica (one), Mexico (three), Peru (two), Spain (two), and the United States (eight).
Fourteen of the 26 players will be making their all-star game debut.
MLS All-Star Roster (x- denotes commissioner's picks)
Goalkeepers: Andre Blake, Philadelphia Union; x-Sean Johnson, New York City FC; Dayne St. Clair, Minnesota United.
Defenders: Julian Araujo, L.A. Galaxy; Alexander Callens, New York City FC; Aaron Long, New York Red Bulls; x-Kamal Miller. CF Montreal; Diego Palacios, LAFC; Kai Wagner, Philadelphia Union; DeAndre Yedlin, Inter Miami CF; Walker Zimmerman, Nashville SC.
Midfielders: Luciano Acosta, FC Cincinnati; Sebastian Driussi, Austin FC; Carles Gil, New England Revolution; Hany Mukhtar, Nashville SC; Darlington Nagbe, Columbus Crew; Emanuel Reynoso, Minnesota United; Ilie Sanchez, LAFC;
Forwards: Paul Arriola, FC Dallas; Valentin (Taty) Castellanos, New York City FC; Jesus Ferreira, FC Dallas; Taxiarchis (Taxi) Fountas, D.C. United; Javier (Chicharito) Hernandez, L.A. Galaxy; Jordan Morris, Seattle Sounders; Raul Ruidiaz, Seattle Sounders; Carlos Vela, LAFC.
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This report by The Canadian Press was first published July 12, 2022.
Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press