Toronto FC announced on Sunday that starting goalkeeper Clint Irwin is expected to miss the next four to five weeks of action after he was diagnosed with a hamstring strain.
The injury occurred late in the first half of the Reds’ home opener on Friday when Irwin’s cleat got caught in the grass pitch while attempting to make a clearance. Backup Alex Bono replaced Irwin in the 40th minute, and TFC went on to earn a 0-0 draw against Sporting Kansas City.
With Irwin out, Bono will take over as the club’s starter, a role he served with aplomb last season.
Irwin, who turned 28 on Saturday, was the Reds’ starter for the majority during the 2016 campaign and all through the playoffs, posting a combined record of 10 wins, five losses and five draws. A mid-season injury ruled him out for close to three months, allowing Bono to take over as the No. 1 ‘keeper. Bono, 23, appeared in 16 games in his first MLS season in 2016, with eight wins, three losses and five draws.
Last week, coach Greg Vanney said he planned on giving both Irwin and Bono opportunities to play early on this season in order to keep them sharp and competing against each other.
“We want to keep both of them going. I don’t know where in the soccer rule book it says you have to have a primary goalkeeper who plays every single game of the year,” Vanney said.
“We have two good goalkeepers. It’s early in the season, and I want to keep both of them sharp and I want to keep them competing a little bit.”
While the loss of Irwin does hurt the club, it’s not a massive blow. Bono is a solid goalkeeper, and it’s clear that Vanney has confidence in him.
“You see a lot of teams … they have a clear No. 1 and there’s a big drop to No. 2. For us, we feel like we have two guys who are capable of playing and both of them should get their time,” Vanney said.
With Irwin out, look for Mark Pais to serve as Bono’s backup. Pais, 25, is currently with the TFC 2 farm club in the second-tier USL.
Toronto FC hosts expansion franchise Atlanta United FC next Saturday.