COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- The Colorado Rapids’ club-worst seven-game losing streak has led to several lineup changes, and they will be forced to make one this weekend at perhaps the club’s deepest position.
Goalkeeper Clint Irwin, a 52-game starter over the last two seasons, was replaced by 30-year-old MLS debutant Joe Nasco for the games on Aug. 30 and Sept. 5. Rapids coach Pablo Mastroeni said at the time that the switch was to give Irwin some rest.
But with Nasco suspended after being ejected against the LA Galaxy, Mastroeni told reporters on Tuesday that he remained unsure who will be in goal when the Rapids take on the Portland Timbers at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park on Saturday (9 pm ET, MLSsoccer.com Free Stream of the Week), Irwin or rookie John Berner (pictured above).
“I have to speak with Clint and make sure he’s in a good spot,” Mastroeni said. “I have to speak with [goalkeeper coach Chris Sharpe] and make sure he’s confident in the decision. But whatever decision we make, it’s going to be best for the team.”
Irwin wound up allowing six goals against the Galaxy because Nasco lasted all of 33 seconds before being shown a red card, leaving Irwin to face a penalty kick and the Rapids to play the entire game with 10 men. Mastroeni now appears to be contemplating giving Irwin more time off, and the highly philosophical coach cited the young goalkeeper’s potentially damaged mindset after allowing 21 goals over his last six games.
“I feel that Clint, rightly or wrongly, has taken so many goals, and I think for a young player to experience that type of situation, especially as a goalie, you start to lose confidence,” Mastroeni said. “Nothing is going our way. Nothing is going his way. I think the psychology is going to be the most important element this weekend.”
The 25-year-old Irwin burst onto the scene in early 2013 filling in for injured then-starter Matt Pickens and performing so well that the Rapids allowed Pickens to leave and gave Irwin a new contract. There were even whispers of earning a spot in camp with the US national team.
But with a makeshift, injury-beleaguered defense in front of him this summer, Irwin allowed 15 goals in a five-game span that started the Rapids' current seven-game losing streak.
Who's No. 1?
Colorado Rapids goalkeepers, 2014
Berner started the year in net when Irwin was injured but has not played in MLS action since a scoreless tie against Chicago on June 4. Irwin appears to be handling a possible spot on the bench with perspective.
“I think as a professional, it’s part of the game; it happens to every goalkeeper,” Irwin said on Tuesday. “Iker Casillas was on the bench for the majority of the games for Real Madrid, and he’s one of the best goalkeepers in the world. It’s something that happens at this level.”
Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.