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Alex Bono’s Time As a Starter Coming to An End, But He Deserves Plenty of Credit

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Clint Irwin could be back as soon as Saturday, meaning rookie Alex Bono will be back on the bench for the foreseeable future.

MLS: Toronto FC at Philadelphia Union Derik Hamilton-USA TODAY Sports

Toronto FC supporters won’t remember the club’s last trip to Orlando fondly. The club came from behind twice at the Citrus Bowl, only to see a hard earned point snatched away from them in the final minute when Orlando was awarded a controversial penalty.

More concerning than that, however, was what happened twenty minutes prior, when goalkeeper Clint Irwin went down with a quad injury. It was an injury that looked like it could do serious damage to Toronto FC’s season, especially considering neither of the other keeper options had played a minute in MLS.

It was 22-year-old Alex Bono who Greg Vanney elected to throw into the fire. While the young keeper certainly didn’t emerge without a couple of burn marks, he was able to keep Toronto FC afloat during the most trying part of the season.

His story, this year at least, may end where it began: with Irwin on the mend Orlando may be Bono’s last start of the year. But the chapter he helped write in Toronto FC’s 2016 season shouldn’t be forgotten.

Bono, himself, will be looking for a little bit of redemption tomorrow, as his career with Toronto FC did not get off to a good start. Shortly after coming on in relief of the injured Irwin, he spilt a ball and allowed Orlando City to score an easy goal. Greg Vanney stuck with him.

Five matches later, Bono allowed an atrocious goal that saw Toronto FC lose to a nine-man San Jose Earthquakes team. It was the low point of the club’s season, and an angry fanbase demanded Bono be replaced by Canadian Quillan Roberts. Greg Vanney stuck with his man.

Vanney has ultimately been proven right, as Toronto FC is undefeated since that disastrous night in California. Bono hasn’t always been excellent, but he’s shown clear signs of growth along the way. At times, he has been the reason Toronto FC is in such good shape.

His stat line is impressive, with six wins, three draws and only two losses since taking over the net. He registered a third loss against the Vancouver Whitecaps in the Voyageurs Cup but helped clinch Toronto FC the trophy in the process. He has only allowed 10 goals in 10 MLS starts and has registered three clean sheets.

More than statistics, however, many of which can be attributed to team performance, it is Bono’s growth that has impressed. He has learned the moments that he needs to be aggressive, how to organise his backline, and his distribution has improved to the point where he has helped create a few Toronto FC goals.

Heck, if Bono was allowed to finish the season, he would be in the conversation for MLS rookie of the year. He certainly has the numbers to make a case, and with Toronto FC heating up those numbers don’t look like they would drop anytime soon.

Alas, Irwin is the better keeper at this stage in his career and deserves his net back. He is expected to return for the 401 derby against the Montreal Impact on Saturday, but if not then it is only a matter of time. Bono’s time as Toronto FC’s number one keeper will be over, for now.

However, Bono deserves to be recognised for the role he played in Toronto FC getting through a dark and uncertain time and blossoming into their recent run of form. Just like the club, he was able to overcome some difficult moments and emerge all the better as a result.

Orlando may well be the last that we see of Alex Bono in a starting role with Toronto FC this season, but he has left a lasting impression.