Toronto FC: What now for Clint Irwin?

COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02: Goal keeper Clint Irwin
COMMERCE CITY, COLORADO - APRIL 02: Goal keeper Clint Irwin /

Toronto FC have declined the option on Clint Irwin’s contract, but is there still a chance the goalkeeper will return to Southern Ontario next season?

Tuesday was an interesting day for Toronto FC and their fans, as they took their first steps towards recovering from a disappointing season. And the initial moves were certainly worthy of attention.

As reported by The Canadian Press, via the Toronto Star, TFC declined options on Clint Irwin and Tosaint Ricketts. In addition, it was confirmed Jason Hernandez and Jordan Hamilton will both be out of contract at the end of the year, while Lucas Janson and Auro’s loan deals expire on Dec. 31.

Declining Irwin’s option was arguably the most noteworthy decision by the Reds. His fall from grace has been as dramatic as it has been surprising.

When the 29-year-old arrived via a trade in January 2016, he was seen as a key component in taking Toronto FC to the next level. And he lived up to expectations during his first year in Southern Ontario, helping the team reach their first ever MLS Cup Final, where they lost to the Seattle Sounders on penalties.

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However, Irwin’s first campaign wasn’t without adversity, as he was limited to 19 MLS regular season games due to injury. This turned out to foreshadow what lay ahead.

The Charlotte, North Carolina native suffered a hamstring injury in TFC’s 2017 home-opener, and was replaced by Alex Bono. The young goalkeeper went on to establish himself as the number one in goal with excellent consistency, and kept his place even after Irwin recovered from injury.

When Bono helped the Reds win their first ever MLS Cup in a rematch with the Sounders, the writing was on the wall for Irwin. And despite the collective struggles in defence this year, he only made five regular season appearances.

In some respects, having his option should have been expected, and yet it still comes as somewhat of a surprise. The question now is, what does the future hold for Irwin?

There is the possibility the 2015 MLS All-Star could return to Toronto, something which general manager Tim Bezbatchenko discussed on Tuesday. As per the Toronto Star, Bezbatchenko said:

"“We will continue to have discussions with the players on loan and whose options were not exercised and those out of contract. We want to also acknowledge Clint, Tosaint and Jason for their contributions to the club both on and off the field. They have played an instrumental part in building our club into one that competes for championships.”"

In truth, the second part of Bezbatchenko’s comments are open to debate. While spoken in the present tense, they could just as easily be the words of someone who doesn’t see Irwin and company returning to the Reds in 2019.

If Irwin is indeed finished in Toronto, we would also like to acknowledge the part he played in taking the team to the next level. The same goes for Ricketts, who scored some important goals during his three years as a backup striker for TFC; we fully expect both players to receive interest from other teams around MLS.


As per the Toronto Star, Toronto FC did exercise options on eight players. These include: Caleb Patterson-Sewell, Ashtone Morgan, Drew Moor, Nick Hagglund, Julian Dunn, Jay Chapman, Ryan Telfer and Aidan Daniels.

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What is your take on the contributions of Irwin and Ricketts for Toronto FC? Do you see either, or both, returning to Southern Ontario next year? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.