Toronto FC filled another hole Monday, acquiring goalkeeper Clint Irwin via trade from the Colorado Rapids to further shore up a defence that gave up a league-high 58 goals last season.
The 26-year-old Irwin, an MLS all-star last year, is the fourth significant acquisition for Toronto this off-season following the arrival of centre back Drew Moor from Colorado, right back Steven Beitashour from Vancouver and Canadian midfielder Will Johnson from Portland.
"He's proved to be a top goalkeeper in the league," said Toronto GM Tim Bezbatchenko. "We feel like he not only is right from a talent standpoint, everything we've heard about him is he's a top professional, that he's well-liked — not just within the club but also with the fans."
With Irwin likely playing behind a backline of Justin Morrow, Moor, Damien Perquis and Beitashour, Toronto's back five will boast more than 700-plus MLS regular-season games.
"I can't wait to get to the wonderful city of Toronto and help Toronto FC win trophies this year. Back to where it all began in Canada!" tweeted Irwin, a Charlotte native who once played for an Ottawa-based team in the Canadian Soccer League.
Toronto opted last month not to pick up the options on Chris Konopka and Joe Bendik, who split the starting job last season. Toronto has two 21-year-old goalkeepers on the books in Alex Bono and Quillan Roberts, with one likely to serve as Irwin's backup while the other starts for Toronto FC 2.
TFC gave up a 2016 third-round draft pick, a conditional 2017 first-rounder and targeted allocation money to get Irwin, who had 25 shutouts in 92 appearances in all competitions for Colorado over the last three seasons.
A source said the 2017 pick is conditional on Irwin's appearances and Toronto's playoff progress.
Irwin made $97,000 US last season, a cap-friendly amount for a starting 'keeper.
Started 31 of 34 games
The six-foot-three, 195-pounder started 31 of Colorado's 34 regular-season games last season, posting a 1.23 goals-against average on a 9-15-10 team that had no offence but a stingy defence.
The move leaves Colorado with Zac McMath and John Berner in goal, although there has been speculation the team is setting the stage to make a move for U.S. international Tim Howard, currently with England's Everton.
The targeted allocation money from Toronto would help such a move. As would Colorado sitting atop the MLS allocation ranking list.
Irwin arrives in Toronto with an intriguing resume.
Growing up in North Carolina, he played high school basketball with Golden State Warriors star Steph Curry. Undrafted after a stellar career at North Carolina's Elon University — Toronto FC winger's Daniel Lovitz's alma mater — Irwin tried out with New England and several other team before playing for the now-defunct Capital City FC in the CSL in 2011.
His deal with the Ottawa team called for $500 a month and the club to pay his living expenses — they put him up in four-bedroom, one-bathroom house with eight others. Bonuses included $40 per win and $250 for various league-leading statistics.
"I can't express how happy I am to finally be somewhere," he wrote at the time.
Irwin went on to play for the USL Charlotte Eagles before finding a home in February 2013 with Colorado, where he eventually took over for the injured Matt Pickens.
A politic science major at college, Irwin has written for a variety of periodicals including Sports Illustrated (how games should be refereed), England's Daily Telegraph (how MLS players are following the U.S. election) and Pacific Standard magazine (the life of a non-millionaire pro athlete).