Newly acquired Clint Irwin may have been the missing piece for Toronto FC, but his journey in the MLS has been a difficult one.
It’s clear that Clint Irwin has wanted to be a professional goalkeeper for a while now, having attended school for a soccer scholarship, but he never could’ve imagined being where he is now. And in an interview with ESPN FC, Irwin revealed that he had a back-up plan in case the MLS didn’t work out for him.
As the article states, Irwin had a desk job at Kyck in Charlotte that he was balancing with playing duties while he was living there. Instead of turning pro, his boss Mac Lackey gave him an offer to work in the corporate world:
Leave professional soccer behind; you’ll have stability, a steady paycheck and opportunity for advancement. Irwin, who had already worked at the technology company for a year while juggling his playing duties with Charlotte, weighed up the offer and decided to go all-in, but not in the direction that Lackey hoped. Irwin would quit his job, train full time and give a professional soccer career one last shot.
From there, Irwin trialed with several MLS teams, starting with the New York Red Bulls, before being given a shot in Colorado. While he established himself as the go-to guy out there, it wasn’t easy for him. It took him three games and an injury before he could get regular minutes, and the season after that he was benched for a brief spell by Pablo Mastroeni amidst team struggles. One person who always had his back was Drew Moor, who he has reunited with here in Toronto.
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“I thought I needed to be the veteran and let him know that we had his back,” Moor said. “Honestly, ever since then I’ve felt like he could have said that to me. He’s had my back ever since then. He was a calming influence and always has been ever since that day.”
Even though he felt as though a dependable starter, it got worse for Clint when rumours started swirling around about Tim Howard potentially moving to the Rapids. They had endured a last-place season in 2015, but Irwin was hardly the one to blame for it. Nevertheless, they needed to make big changes, and they felt nobody was untouchable. But now that he’s found a new home in Toronto, he relishes the challenge as well as the heightened expectations:
It was definitely a shock. I had no real inclination or heads-up or anything. But my conversations with Colorado to finish things out were very positive. We left on a good note. On the other side of things, you really don’t get to pick in those instances and they can kind of ship you anywhere. To send me to Toronto, a really amazing club with high expectations, big ambitions, very good players here and all together just a class setup, I was really [excited] after finding out that news.
Yet despite all he’s accomplished in the MLS, and earning a clean sheet in his first start with his new club, Irwin’s old boss is still kind of bitter that he left behind his old job: “Mac always gives me a hard time. ‘Do you think you made the right decision?’ I’m like, ‘You know, I think I did.’ He’s like, ‘You know, I’m still not convinced.'”