Irwin re-signs with Rapids, sets focus on winning back starting goalkeeper spot

For Irwin, this is the place to be

Clint Irwin in training

Photo Credit: 
ColoradoRapids.com

COMMERCE CITY, Colo.- The Cinderella story is now complete.

The Colorado Rapids announced on Friday afternoon that they’d re-signed defender Chris Klute and goalkeeper Clint Irwin to new contracts, locking up two of the club’s key younger pieces to new deals.

A little over a year ago, Irwin came into the Rapids’ preseason camp on a last whim, but he beat the odds and quickly rocketed to the top of the depth chart after a string of impressive performances while filling in for then-starter Matt Pickens. Two years ago, Klute was working at Atlanta’s airport, unsure of his future. But now, both Irwin and Klute’s futures appear to be at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.

“I love Denver, I love the Rapids and everyone involved in [the team], and I was just happy to have the opportunity to be around a little bit longer term,” Irwin told MLSsoccer.com by phone on Friday, shortly after the deal became official. “For me, it’s the place to be.”

But even with a new contract in hand, Irwin is now in the middle of a battle for the starting goalkeeper spot for Saturday’s showdown against defending champions Sporting Kansas City (6:00 pm ET, watch it on MLS Live). Rookie John Berner has impressed in Irwin’s absence, and even with Irwin fully healthy again after a quad injury sidelined him for the first two games of the season, Mastroeni will likely stick with Berner once again this weekend.

“John’s been doing a really good job in goal,” Rapids head coach Pablo Mastroeni told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “There’s not a whole lot of conversation when you have a guy like John Berner in goal that’s playing the way he is.”

Klute, meanwhile, is battling a hamstring strain and won’t play on Saturday. But, the 24-year-old made a big impression in 2013, stepping in for an injured Diego Calderon last March and, similarly to Irwin, earning a regular spot in the starting 11. The Dallas-area native earned his first call-up to the U.S. senior national team in January.

Klute, who jogged lightly at practice this week, is expected to return to the Rapids lineup next month.

Chris Bianchi covers the Colorado Rapids for MLSsoccer.com.