Toronto FC spent this summer fixing a leaky backline, but until today the club was missing a last line of defence. The club has acquired goalkeeper Clint Irwin from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for Targeted Allocation Money (TAM), Toronto's highest third round pick in 2016 and a conditional first round pick in 2017. The conditions of the pick were not released.
Until Toronto put an end to it by acquiring the 26-year-old, there was at least some concern that the club would start the 2016 MLS season with a pair of 21-year-olds in net. While the club's belief is high in both Quillan Roberts and Alex Bono, especially Bono, having two goalkeepers who have yet to step on the pitch in a Major League Soccer game isn't an ideal situation.
Irwin has 92 matches of experience in all competitions for the Colorado Rapids after joining the team in 2013, he has been their starting goalkeeper since. The Rapids have had varied success during that time, losing in the knockout round in 2013, but missing the playoffs the next two years. This included a 2014 season in which they went winless in their final 14 matches. Defensively they were very strong in 2013 before allowing an abysmal 62 goals given up in 2014.
They bounced back fairly well in 2015, however, and Irwin's stats have been decent throughout. He's been top 10 in the league in saves two of the past three years. This past year he was 9th in the league in save percentage and had eight clean sheets, tied for seventh. Also of importance is his distribution, which is significantly better than either of Toronto's ex-keepers. He made a league best 8.2 accurate long passes per game last year according to Who Scored.
Salary wise this is also a smart move for Toronto FC. One of the reasons, perhaps, that Alex Bono has the inside track to the backup job this season is because he is generation adidas. That means that if he makes the senior roster he will not count against the salary cap. If that is the case Toronto could save over $100,000 on goaltending this season while potentially upgrading their starter. Either way they save money.
Another positive to this move is the relationship that Irwin has with Drew Moor from their time in Colorado, where the two have played together for the past three seasons. Toronto will be hoping that Moor and Irwin inject a unity and organization into the club's backline that has never really been present in the club's history.
Toronto FC supporters certainly didn't see the best of Irwin this past season. Their only meeting of the season came in September and saw Irwin give up a howler just 12 minutes into the match. He would give up two more goals that he didn't really have a chance on and TFC would win 3-1. Many Toronto supporters have unfairly held this game against him.
The notable downside to the move would be the price that Toronto had to pay. While the amount of TAM that Toronto paid is unlikely to be released, that on top of a 3rd and conditional 1st is a decent amount. But with that being said a 3rd round pick is a fairly useless asset in MLS, and trading a 1st for a reliable MLS starter is a fair price.
Bill Manning has already set the defensive goal for this next season: less than 45 goals conceded. That would be an improvement of more than 13 goals next season, which is fairly ambitious. If they can maintain their exemplary offense however it would put them near the top of the league.
Whether or not it turns out to be a realistic goal remains to be seen, but Toronto FC finally have the pieces in place to make it a reality. Whether or not the paper translates onto the pitch, however, will have to wait until March.