In 2023, Minnesota United had four goalkeepers on its first-team roster – overkill, perhaps, but an acknowledgement that no team ever wants to run short of keepers.

This year, the Loons went with a different plan: two goalkeepers on the MLS roster, two more signed to their MLS NEXT Pro roster.

Though they knew that starter Dayne St. Clair would likely miss some time with the Canadian national team during Copa América, they had MLS veteran Clint Irwin ready to fill in, plus Alec Smir and former Homegrown player Fred Emmings signed with MNUFC2 and eligible for short-term backup duty.

All that could go wrong was a few poorly-timed injuries – which, in this month of cascading roster disasters, is of course exactly what happened.

St. Clair is still with Canada. Irwin injured his hip adductor, and will be out for three weeks or more. Emmings has dealt all year with concussion-related issues, has played just 45 minutes, and is currently unavailable.

And so, Smir will make his debut with the Loons tonight. The 25-year-old Greensboro native, who played his college soccer at North Carolina, has featured 18 times for MNUFC2 over the past three seasons.

Smir is probably best known for winning the “Goalie Wars” competition that was part of the MLS All-Star festivities at Allianz Field in 2022.

Behind him, MNUFC spent Wednesday stocking up on goalkeepers, like a man vowing to never be caught short of emergency supplies again.

The Loons signed former Augsburg University keeper Oscar Herrera and former Boston University GK Francesco Montali, both now on contracts with MNUFC2 for the rest of 2024. In addition, they signed Herrera to a short-term agreement with the Loons first team, making him the backup keeper for tonight’s game with Vancouver.

Herrera more or less fits the profile of the emergency keeper, much like the emergency goalie that sits in the stands at NHL and AHL games, and occasionally becomes a national sensation (avert your eyes, Maple Leafs fans).

Smir will be the third goalkeeper to start for the first team this season - but that’s nothing compared to MNUFC2. Montali is expected to start tonight for MNUFC2 at North Texas, and would be the seventh goalkeeper the Doubloons have used this year.

Three of those seven are MNUFC Academy players - Kai Zehrun, Oliver Kelly, and Adam Heiden. My assumption would originally have been that one of those academy players would have been tonight’s backup for the first team. However, I confirmed with the league office that only players on professional contracts with MLS NEXT Pro affiliates are eligible to sign Short-Term Agreements with MLS clubs, and so the trio of academy keepers - all of whom have signed amateur contract agreements with MNUFC2, not pro contracts, thus retaining their college eligibility - cannot be “called up” to the big leagues.

MLS NEXT Pro teams are also only allowed to have five academy players on the field at any given time, and need a league exception for more - and so Montali may just be helping to make space for other academy players to play this evening.

Montali has a higher profile than Herrera; he was taken by the Philadelphia Union in the third round of this year’s MLS SuperDraft, and went to preseason with the Union, though he did not sign there. He’s been playing with USL2 giants Vermont Green, and is in an od situation. Since he didn’t sign with the Union, Philadelphia keeps his MLS rights until December 2025, and so if the Loons wanted to play him in MLS, they would have to acquire his rights from the Union.

So, just to try to lay out the depth chart for you here:

Can play for first team

  1. Dayne St. Clair: at Copa América until at least Sunday’s game, if not longer
  2. Clint Irwin: out for three weeks, possibly longer - potentially returning in time for Leagues Cup
  3. Alec Smir: now on semi-guaranteed first-team contract, started year with MNUFC2 contract
  4. Fred Emmings: MNUFC2 contract, concussion, no timetable for return
  5. Oscar Herrera: MNUFC2 contract, currently on short-term agreement with MNUFC


  1. Francesco Montali: not eligible to play for first team without acquiring rights
  2. Kai Zehrun, Oliver Kelly, Adam Heiden: academy, can’t play for first team, slightly restricted playing for MNUFC2

So there you have it. The club has nine goalkeepers, reaching all the way down to the U-17 team, but only two of whom are currently even able to play for the first team.

Only in this month, when anything that can go wrong will go wrong, could Minnesota have nine keepers signed to the club, and still very nearly end up without one.