Home Featured Ryan Johnson wins Player of the Week award: The 11 gives nod to former CSL keeper Clint Irwin

Ryan Johnson wins Player of the Week award: The 11 gives nod to former CSL keeper Clint Irwin

Ryan Johnson
Ryan Johnson
For the second time in a row, someone named “Johnson” from the Portland Timbers has won the MLS Player of the Week award.

Last week, it was Canadian Will Johnson, who scored twice. This week, it’s former Toronto FC forward Ryan Johnson, who scored two second-half goals to give the Timbers a 2-0 win over the Houston Dynamo. Johnson got the most first-place votes out of the membership of the North American Soccer Reporters.

Johnson’s two-goal game was deemed to be more Player-of-the-Week worthy than the two-goal game of another ex-TFC striker, Maicon Santos. The Brazilian came on as a sub and scored the two markers that gave the Chicago Fire its first win of the season, 3-1 over the Red Bulls. But, the logic in choosing Johnson is easy to see. Johnson started the game while Maicon Santos came in as a sub. And, scoring two goals against a defensively stingy Houston team is more impressive than a brace against the porous Red Bulls’ backline.

How The 11 voted: We didn’t go for either Johnson or Maicon Santos. We chose Colorado Rapids goalie and former Canadian Soccer League standout Clint Irwin, who made several outstanding saves as the Rapids shut out their rival, Real Salt Lake, on Saturday. Irwin, pressed into service because of an injury to No. 1 Matt Pickens, stopped an Alvaro Saborio penalty. He was the difference maker in a rivalry match, and to us that was the standout performance of the week.

Irwin’s story is a remarkable one. Two seasons ago, he was the starter for Capital City FC of the Canadian Soccer League. He was looking for any avenue he could find so he could remain in North American pro soccer. Irwin went to Elon University — and small-school players don’t get invited to the MLS Combine nor really get serious looks at the draft. So, Irwin, an American, found himself playing semipro soccer in Canada, though he did make headlines when he scored a last-gasp goal in a 2011 match against the Windsor Stars.

“The CSL isn’t the highest-quality league, but it is still good, professional soccer, with guys trying to make their professional careers,” Irwin told The 11 back in ’11.

Irwin also tried his luck at the 2012 NASL combine, but didn’t land a deal in second-division soccer last season. He ended up with the Charlotte Eagles of USL-Pro, but played sparingly in the 2012 season.

But Irwin is a case of a player sticking with the task. Far too often, we see undrafted players in North American soccer who look at the low pay and daunting climb up the ladder towards MLS — and give up the dream. They get regular jobs, go into coaching, do the kind of things that will pay them so much more — and give them more security — than sticking with soccer. Maybe Irwin’s success may open the doors for more domestic pro players to get trials.

And Irwin will always have a link with the city of Ottawa. Fair to call him an honorary Canadian? Maybe.

Goalkeeper Clint Irwin gets last-gasp marker for Capital City FC (CLICK)

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One Comment

  1. Monica Jung

    June 15, 2013 at 5:28 am

    Against the Houston Dynamo, the team performance of Portland Timbers was excellent. All the players of Portland were very organized. The team work was well. Especially Ryan Johnson’s performance was excellent. He has scored two goals. Congrats.

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