Slowly but surely, Toronto FC are getting the band back together.
Clint Irwin made his return tending the TFC net on Saturday night as the side fought back to earn a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union at BMO Field.
Irwin, who was one of a host of key off-season acquisitions, started the first 15 league matches of the season before collapsing after hitting a goal-kick in Orlando on June 25th.
He was diagnosed with a quadriceps strain shortly thereafter and would miss 14 matches.
With Alex Bono deputizing admirably in his absence, the question of when TFC’s number one would regain the starting position was on everybody’s lips.
“It’s been a long time…. It’s tough, watching up in the stands. The good thing is the team has been doing well,” said Irwin post-match. “It was good [to get back out there], unfortunately we didn’t get all three points.
“As the game went on, it became normal again, you get back in the flow of things.”
The only goal he conceded came in the 25th minute when Fabian Herbers slipped Alejandro Bedoya in down the right-side of the box. Bedoya peeled wide, deftly lofting a right-footed chip over Irwin and into the back of the Toronto goal, to give the Union the lead.
“It’s good to get your hands on the ball early, get in the flow of things,” said Irwin. “You want to be a part of the game, you don’t want to wait to find that rhythm. [I did] as much as I could to be involved.”
“You don’t want to be picking it out of your net that early, but as the game went on I got more and more comfortable out there.”
Irwin came up with several game-saving stops, including a brilliant save on Herbers from close range moment before half-time that prevented the Union from a taking a two-goal lead into the break. This set the stage for Justin Morrow to level in the 70th minute.
“Because of how we started the game, we asked a lot of him,” said Greg Vanney. “We conceded far too many chances at the beginning of the game. He stood up well to all of those.”
Before his injury Irwin had gone 7-5-5 with eight clean sheets. In Irwin’s absence Bono kept three clean sheets and went 8-3-4.
“He was very good,” said Michael Bradley of his keeper. “We’re lucky have three very good goalkeepers. It was good to have Clint back tonight, he was exactly what we’ve come to expect.”