Back surgery that removed two discs ended Scottish goalkeeper Stewart Kerr’s playing career early at age 26 and steered him into coaching that eventually led to Minnesota United in midseason.
United coach Adrian Heath hired Kerr in 2015 before Heath’s final season as coach at Orlando City. He has reunited with an assistant coach credited with developing MLS goalkeeper Stefan Frei, now in Seattle, and Joe Bendik in Orlando as well as England’s John Ruddy and Ireland’s Darren Randolph. Kerr also prepped veteran Brazilian national team keeper Julio Cesar for the 2014 World Cup.
Now 44, Kerr calls himself “very proud” of that list.
“I’d like to think every goalkeeper I’ve worked with, I’ve made better,” said Kerr, who retired from playing in 2000. “I’m proud of that. I love working with goalkeepers, love it. It has been a passion since I was a young boy, so I’ve done it all my life. I take great pride in the goalkeepers I’ve helped in a small way with their careers. That’s what I am here to do.”
He has coached goalkeepers in MLS for Vancouver, Orlando and Toronto. He worked with Cesar for six months in Toronto, after which he told reporters in the days before that World Cup, “Their goalkeeper coach is the best I’ve ever had.”
Heath and Kerr have known each other since Heath nearly took the Toronto coaching job in 2012. Heath calls Kerr the right person in particular to develop Loons rookie and seventh overall draft pick Dayne St. Clair. Assistant coach John Pascarella, hired as goalkeeper coach in 2018, has assumed other scouting and coaching duties.
“He has a long résumé,” St. Clair said, “and I think it’ll continue to grow working with him.”
Kerr played professionally in England and at home in Scotland, including for Celtic in Glasgow before back issues forced him to retire. He said if medical technology then was what it is now, he probably could have played longer. His doctors told him he would risk his health later in life if he kept playing.
He still chose soccer, of course, but coaching over playing. He coached in Scotland’s top two divisions before Toronto FC hired him in 2011.
“It was either that or get a real job,” Kerr said. “My career ended at a young age, but I had a passion to stay in the game. I loved watching goalkeepers and scoring goalkeepers and recruiting goalkeepers. For me, get my badges done, get my coaching licenses was a no-brainer. Then I was very lucky with the clubs I was at and very lucky the standard of goalkeepers I was working with as well.”
Kerr credited his relationship with Heath and these United goalkeepers as the reasons why he’s here. Vito Mannone, acquired before this season, is the veteran with Premier League experience. St. Clair is the rookie who has all the attributes to star in MLS and beyond. And don’t forget veteran Bobby Shuttleworth, who is on loan to Sacramento in the USL.
“I wouldn’t swap the three goalkeepers I’ve got for anyone in the league,” Kerr said.
He calls Mannone, 31, a keeper “in a rich vein of form at the moment” whom he can help however he is needed.
“He’s at an age where I’m not going to change him as a goalkeeper,” Kerr said. “I can get him sharp, keep him motivated, know when to manage his training and keep him ready for the games. If he needs anything, I’m here.”
St. Clair, in comparison, is the proverbial potter’s clay.
“With Dayne, I can really start coaching him because he still has a lot to learn about the fundamentals, the basics of the game,” Kerr said. “I feel I can really make an impact with him.
“But he has things you can’t teach: Length, height, athletic ability, really good with the ball at his feet, which is massive in modern-day goalkeeping. So he’s got a future.”
Heath predicts Kerr will be “really, really good” developing St. Clair because he’ll be “very demanding” with a young keeper, whose only action for now is daily training, games played when shuttled to United’s Madison, Wis., affiliate and the odd international friendly.
“We knew our situation was going to make it difficult for Dayne to get the games,” Heath said. “Stewart is a terrific goalkeeping coach. He’s going to do a great job with it.”