Just when Toronto FC think that they have their goalkeeping problem solved an injury happens.
On Tuesday, Toronto FC announced goalkeeper Clint Irwin has sustained a strained quadriceps injury and will be out for the next 6 weeks.
Irwin received the injury in the 70th minute of Saturday’s match against Orlando City SC. The injury occurred not during the run of play but when Irwin was attempting to take a goal kick. TFC would bring in 22-year old Alex Bono and eventually lose the match 3-2.
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The good news is for Irwin is that there was no tear. However, given how difficult leg injuries can be rehabbing, six weeks might not be enough for the former MLS Goalkeeper of the Year.
Irwin, 27, came to Toronto in the offseason after spending his first three years in MLS with the Colorado Rapids. Although he is still rather young he has had a bit of a journeyman career playing for the likes of the Carolina Dynamo, Capitol City F.C. in the Canadian Soccer League, and the Charlotte Eagles of the PDL before making his way to the Rapids in 2013.
Thus far his tenure with Toronto FC has been nothing short of spectacular. In seventeen appearances across all competitions for TFC Irwin has eight shutouts and has made 43 saves. He also has a 1.07 Goals Against Average which is one of the lowest among start goalkeepers in MLS.
Beyond the numbers, Irwin’s leadership skills have helped calm down a wild and volatile TFC defense. For years, TFC was known for their high scoring and complete lack of discipline in the defensive third. Although some of the credit should go to coach Greg Vanney and the addition of Drew Moor, Irwin’s composure has provided TFC a level of stability at goalkeeper that the club has never seen in their ten years of existence.
So the question now becomes: can Toronto hold on until he returns? In the short-term the club will look to Bono to cover for them during this transition period. Bono was selected by TFC with the sixth overall pick in the 2015 MLS SuperDraft. The Generation Adidas goalkeeper made 12 appearances with TFC II last year. However, he had just one clean sheet during his time with TFC’s affiliate club. TFC II gave up 52 goals last season, which was the second highest among all USL sides.
The club also has Quilian Roberts, a Homegrown Player, on the TFC II roster who could be called up. But given his and Bono’s lack of experience the club may also opt to go for a short-term stopgap veteran goalkeeper.
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Irwin’s injury could not have come at a worse time for TFC. The club has won just one match in their past six games and has quickly slid down the Eastern Conference standings (5-6-4, 19 points).
The good news is that midfielder Michael Bradley will be back for Saturday’s home match against Seattle Sounders FC. Bradley, who had been out for the past six weeks due to United States Men’s National Team duty, should help wake up a TFC attack that has scored just three goals in their last four matches.
Meanwhile forward Jozy Altidore is still out of the lineup with a hamstring injury. Altidore, who has been plagued throughout his career with hamstring problems, originally sustained the injury in TFC’s 4-3 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps in May.
But as it always seems to be with TFC, their success or lack thereof will depend upon their defense. If Bono cannot live up to the hype or TFC cannot find a suitable replacement for Irwin the club may once again find themselves on the outside looking in at the MLS Playoffs.