With new starter Joe Nasco struggling in goal, Colorado Rapids may turn to Clint Irwin vs. San Jose

COMMERCE CITY, Colo. -- For a two-month stretch littered with individual errors and poor all-around team play, nothing perhaps was quite as bad as two of the goals Colorado Rapids goalkeeper Joe Nasco allowed in Friday night’s 5-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.

In the 37th minute, the 30-year-old Nasco, recently named the starter by head coach Pablo Mastroeni, dropped a cross into the box, leading to the easiest of finishes for Chris Schuler. Then, in the 63rd, Nasco’s nightmare at the Rio Tinto continued when the first-year MLS player dropped a corner kick, leading to yet another simple finish, this time for RSL’s Carlos Salcedo.

After two blunders, Mastroeni is inevitably re-thinking who he will put in net for Saturday’s showdown against the San Jose Earthquakes at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park (9 pm ET, MLS Live). Will the first-year head coach, looking for a spark, turn back to Clint Irwin, whom he benched just a few weeks ago, go with rookie John Berner, or could Mastroeni trust Nasco again between the sticks?

“Those are mistakes that can’t happen at this level,” Mastroeni said on Tuesday of Nasco’s errors last week. “Joe is by no means the only one making gaffes, unfortunately for him, when he makes a gaffe, it’s marked on the scoresheet.”

By his own admission, Irwin hasn’t been at his best this season, but he also hasn’t committed the types of errors that his counterparts, Nasco and Berner, have committed, the latter of which parried a save-able shot into his own net during his last start in Colorado’s 2-2 draw with the Portland Timbers on September 13th.  Irwin, 25, was benched by Mastroeni with the head coach mostly citing a mental health break for the second-year player after he allowed 11 goals in a three-game stretch in August.

But with options limited at this point, Irwin could be back in the net this Saturday, a decision Mastroeni expects to make as soon as Wednesday.

“I think I do a pretty decent job of staying in touch with [the goalkeepers] and letting them know what I’m thinking, what we’re thinking as a staff,” Mastroeni said. “[Irwin] is definitely available [for Saturday] and he’s been training well.”

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.