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The Case For....Clint Irwin

As the Gold Cup is getting underway this week it got me thinking...why is Clint Irwin not getting more props from Major League Soccer and the USMNT?

Irwin making a save against RSL in Leg One of the Rocky Mountain Cup in Sandy, UT
Irwin making a save against RSL in Leg One of the Rocky Mountain Cup in Sandy, UT
Russ Isabella-USA TODAY Sports

Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Clint Irwin is one of the best goalkeepers in Major League Soccer and for my money there is no one else in this league that I would want in the posts for the Rapids.

Let that sink in for a second.

It is not a vogue thing to say any Rapids player is the best at this or that, but I am very serious about this fact and it is clear that without Irwin, this season could be a heck of a lot worse.  Goalkeeping is a position with many different statistical categories to look at, but the purpose of the article, I am looking at the following:  games played, minutes played, shots faced, number of saves, save percentage, goals allowed (GA), goals against average (GAA) and clean sheets (CS).  Using the Save Percentage (SP) statistic as a stat filter does eliminate some keepers who may have individual stats better than some on this list, but I think your ability to stop shots is the key stat for a keeper (minimum 10 games played):

SP Shots Saves GA GAA CS GP Minutes
Bill Hamid D.C. United 82% 72 59 12 0.75 6 16 1440
Stefan Frei Seattle Sounders 80% 89 71 18 0.97 8 19 1664
David Bingham San Jose Earthquakes 77% 78 60 17 1.00 5 17 1530
Clint Irwin Colorado Rapids 76% 72 55 18 1.00 6 18 1620
Jaime Penedo LA Galaxy 72% 69 50 19 1.19 5 16 1440
David Ousted Vancouver Whitecaps 72% 76 55 19 1.00 7 19 1710
Chris Konopka Toronto FC 72% 43 31 12 1.20 3 10 900
Josh Saunders New York City FC 71% 89 63 22 1.29 3 17 1530
Nick Rimando Real Salt Lake 70% 61 43 17 1.06 6 16 1440
Evan Bush Montreal Impact 70% 80 56 23 1.64 2 14 1260

So why would I ever consider that Clint Irwin is one of the best 'keepers in MLS when he has merely the fourth best save percentage when you have stud keepers like Hamid, Frei and Rimando manning the nets?  For me, and granted I see Irwin play each week, is how he plays the game on a team that, and let's be honest, is not having the best of years.  The Rapids are not scoring that many goals and it means that Irwin is critical if the team is going to claim a result out of a match.  Look at it this way:

The Rapids are averaging 0.77 goals scored per game. And when you take out the outlier, the FC Dallas road result, the Rapids are averaging 0.58 goals scored per game.  Check out how this compares with the rest of these teams and keepers:

Goals Scored Per Game
D.C. United 1.09
Seattle Sounders 1.31
San Jose Earthquakes 1.11
Colorado Rapids 0.77
LA Galaxy 1.47
Vancouver Whitecaps 1.21
Toronto FC 1.37
New York City FC 1.11
Real Salt Lake 0.94
Montreal Impact 1.33

A couple of take-aways from these statistics:

1)  Due to the Rapids scoring woes, Irwin has had to be great: it does not take a rocket scientist to see that the Rapids are not scoring much and that is in turn why they are last in the table in the Western Conference.  But it also illustrates how important the defense, and Irwin, have been in keeping things as close as they have been.  The Rapids have gotten results in 12 of 18 matches, and although they have not won much, it is still impressive based on how bad their offense has been.

2)  To take nothing away: I do not want to take anything away from Frei or Hamid or Ousted or Penedo or Bingham, but they are getting fantastic goal support and without that I would wonder what their statistics would look like.  They know that it is critical that they prevent goals, but they play with the knowledge that they will get at least some goals to help out.

3)  Location and Team: I really believe that Irwin does not get much press because he plays in Colorado and the Rapids are struggling this year.  (But is their hope after the win last week?)  If Irwin was playing on a bigger club or a club that was not 3-6-9, I have to believe he gets more notice.  There was also the "musical keepers" debacle from 2014 that did not help his cause or his confidence.  (Let alone getting shelled for six when the 'starting' keeper was a complete bonehead and gets red carded after 34 seconds and Irwin has to go in)

4)  Good Keepers: One thing the United States does well is produce some darn fine keepers including Tim Howard, Brad Guzan, Hamid, Sean Johnson, Rimando, etc.  For Irwin to break through with the USMNT it is going to take a super human effort because the guys in front of him are darn good.  That being said, Irwin has shown that he is a top flight keeper and deserves far more love and notice that he is getting.

So what do you think Rapids fans?  Do you agree that Clint Irwin is one of the better keepers in MLS and deserves a serious look at the USMNT?  I am curious your comments so hit us up and let your voice be heard!