Douglas C. Pizac-USA Today Sports
Clint Irwin put on a show for us against Real Salt Lake, and I saw stuff that makes me think he might have what it takes to keep that job full-time with Matt Pickens out.
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Who is this Clint Irwin guy, anyway? The former Elon and Charlotte Eagles goalkeeper made himself look like the Chris Wondolowski of keepers -- can there even be a Chris Wondolowski of keepers? -- on Saturday with a fine backup performance.
With Matt Pickens out, it's pretty much down to either him or Steward Ceus for the next three or four months. To start, we're going to knock Ceus out of the equation for reasons that I think you all know by now. That leaves Irwin. Chris Bianchi suggested on twitter that the Rapids need to go out and get a new goalkeeper (Jimmy Maurer, anyone?) because 3-4 months is too long for the two youngsters, but I think that picking up a new guy should only be in the event of keeping Ceus out from between the sticks for the rest of the year. What I saw from Clint might not have just been a single promising start, but the start of a promising career.
I'll explain what I mean: Irwin looked like a seasoned veteran out there not just physically, but mentally. This is pretty much the exact same reason why I feel Ceus doesn't deserve to see a starting position on the team any time soon, and perhaps ever again. The guy's mistakes are 99% mental, misjudging balls in the air, misjudging runs out of his net, etc.
Irwin certainly has the physical stuff to be a solid goalkeeper -- he's 6'3'', looks like he's strong enough to get the job done and has, from what we saw, decent leaping ability and hands when it comes to grabbing that ball out of the air. Mentally, he looked like a seasoned veteran who had started 100 games before and would be ready to start 100 more over the next few seasons. He was gabbing to his back four all the time, when things went right and when things went wrong. His runs off his line were well-timed. His goal kicks were all on a wire to the head of a Rapids player, and they all stayed in the midfield instead of drifting out wide towards the touch line.
Those are the sorts of things that make good performances happen consistently, it's not just the physical stuff that you want to look for. If Steward Ceus is penciled in as the starter against the LA Galaxy this weekend, I'll be worried sick that we're not just going to lose, but lose by several goals. If Irwin is in net, I know that, while the performance may be nervy, I can expect a lot more discipline out of my keeper. Those sorts of mental attributes are important, and Irwin's 80+ minutes showed us that they were there.
I just hope that he gets another 90 minutes on Saturday so that he can prove that it wasn't just a major fluke. If, four months later, we've found that we have uncovered a hidden gem in the world of young American goalkeepers, all the better.