Ajax FC's '97 Boys Red Dayne St. Clair is living out his childhood dream.
He enters the league as a Generation Adidas athlete — one of seven this year — which allows him to become a professional a year early and earn a salary higher than the league minimum.
It also means he will have to forgo his final season at the University of Maryland, where he recently led the Terrapins to a National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) championship without allowing a goal in five tournament games.
But, after weighing his options, he determined it was an opportunity he couldn’t refuse.
“Seeing how the league is growing, especially in the last few years, it’s been blessed not just in terms of players but also facilities and the viewership as well,” he said by phone from Minnesota, where the team has begun training camp. “I think it’s a massive opportunity. When I was younger I wasn’t sure where I wanted to play pro, but seeing the growth of the league, it’s something that I wanted to do.”
Although perhaps not sure where, St. Clair has long known exactly what he wanted to do while growing up in Scarborough and later Pickering. Having played “since I could walk basically,” St. Clair was quick to cite the "beautiful game" whenever he was asked about his future.
“In grade school when you get the little sheet of what you want to do, people would be saying super heroes and things like that, but I had professional soccer player,” he recalled. “Of course, I didn’t know what kind of path it would be, but it was something that I always aspired to be.”
St. Clair started with soccer in Scarborough and also played in Pickering, Ajax and Vaughan before earning a scholarship out of Notre Dame Catholic Secondary School to Maryland in 2015.
He played in only two games as a freshman in 2015 — although he earned his first shutout — and was red-shirted in 2016, in part owing to commitments to Canada’s under-20 national team.
St. Clair joins a Minnesota team that has been in the MLS for just two seasons and has yet to make the playoffs. The team will move into a new stadium, Allianz Field, in April after playing its first five games of the season on the road.
One of only two goalkeepers on the roster, St. Clair hopes to get solid playing time and make an immediate impact.
While he hopes to represent Canada again in the coming years, he says his professional focus is squarely on the here and now.
“It’s a process, and I’m just taking it day by day,” he said, when asked about potentially playing overseas down the road. “Right now my full focus is on preparing myself here, because this is where I am and I’m happy to be here. If opportunities come in the future, I may look at them, but right now I’m very happy where I am.”
Tag(s): Competitive News