New England Soccer Today

Irwin Reflects on 2011 Revs Trial

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.ocm

Photo credit: Chris Aduama/aduamaphotography.ocm

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Had it not been a for a couple of ill-timed knocks early in his career, Toronto FC keeper Clint Irwin could’ve ended up protecting New England’s net on Saturday at Gillette Stadium.

Back in the summer of 2010, a 21-year-old Irwin was about to embark on his senior year at Elon University (N.C.) before Revolution goalkeepers coach Remi Roy reached out to offer him a training stint in Foxborough.

Irwin performed well enough to earn an invitation to the squad’s preseason camp the following winter. But after battling injuries during his final season at Elon, he wasn’t in a position to make the team ahead of the 2011 season.

“I was really kind of out of form,” Irwin told “I can’t say they made a mistake in letting me go, I just wasn’t playing the way that I could’ve. You take those experiences and you learn from it.”

Learning from the setback is exactly what Irwin did shortly after his less-than-stellar showing.

He latched on with now-defunct Canadian Soccer League side Capital City FC later in the year and suited up for 22 games while bolstering his resume. The following year, he landed with his hometown Charlotte Eagles (USL), a destination where he only made three appearances.

Despite the lack of playing time at the USL level, the Colorado Rapids had seen enough of him during a subsequent preseason trial to take a chance – which he grabbed a hold of and didn’t let go.

From 2013-15, Irwin played in a total of 89 games, becoming one of the league’s most reliable keepers. Following the 2015 season, Toronto acquired him to shore up a position that was in constant flux in recent years.

Shortly after the trade, Toronto general manager Tim Bezbatchenko told the local media that the acquisition of Irwin was “one of the last remaining pieces of the puzzle to take our club from being just an MLS playoff-qualifying club to a consistent contender.”

Irwin’s ascension from unproven commodity to a no. 1 at the top-flight is no accident. Like many unheralded prospects, he learned the intricacies of what it took to succeed by watching others and paying his dues, something that one-time training teammate Bobby Shuttleworth also noticed.

“He stuck with it for awhile, and waited to get his opportunity,” Shuttleworth said. “It’s not an easy road. I’ve been there. It can be difficult to hang around and wait for your chance. He did, and he took it”

In fact, during Irwin’s brief time in Revolution camp, he carefully observed first-hand how longtime New England keeper Matt Reis prepared on a daily basis.

“He was a guy who just led by example,” Irwin said. “He’s a guy who had been in the league for awhile, and you could just tell by his quality and the way he went about the trade and his approach. Everything was just top-notch, and you take that in, and you realize that’s what it takes to make it.”

Irwin said he also received feedback from Roy, who provided the young keeper with honest feedback.

While it’s evident that Irwin worked hard enough to become one of the league’s best young keepers at age 27, he said that his short time in Foxborough undoubtedly aided him during the early days.

“I just tried to take what I learned from that experience,” Irwin said, “and apply it to when I got the chance to make it to the next level.”

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