Toronto FC sign Mark Pais to first-team contract, to serve as backup ‘keeper

Toronto FC elevate Pais to first team

Toronto FC signed goalkeeper Mark Pais to an MLS contract Tuesday, paving the way to move the TFC 2 ‘keeper to the first-team roster as backup to Alex Bono.

Toronto lost No. 1 ‘keeper Clint Irwin to a hamstring strain in Friday’s night’s home opener against Sporting Kansas City. Irwin is expected to be out four to five weeks.

The 25-year-old Pais (pronounced pace) signed with Toronto’s USL affiliate on March 7.

The six-foot-four, 200-pound native of St. Louis spent the past two seasons with Saint Louis FC of the USL after a collegiate career split between Saint Louis University and the University of Tulsa.

Bono will start Saturday for Toronto (1-0-3) against visiting Atlanta United (2-1-1).

Irwin went down clutching his leg after his foot got jammed making a save on the wet turf at BMO Field in the 0-0 tie with Kansas City. He managed to limp off as he was replaced by Bono.

“The news on Clint is good considering the circumstances,” coach Greg Vanney said after training Monday.

Vanney feared the worst when he saw Irwin’s leg hyperextended.

“Something’s got to give and I was hoping it wasn’t a ligament or something,” he said. “As Jim Liston, our sports science guy, said the hamstring did its job, which is it caught and it protected the knee. The unfortunate part is the hamstring is what then takes the injury, but that’s obviously a far less troublesome injury than if it was a ligament or something like that. That was the good news out of it.”

April is also a slow month schedule-wise for TFC, with just a game a week. There are eight games in May.

“Hopefully (Irwin) can be available as we move into the busy May,” Vanney added. “That’s our goal.”

Toronto brought Pais back from Florida midway through TFC 2’s two-game swing through Florida. He started Saturday in a 4-0 loss to the Tampa Bay Rowdies. He also started TFC 2’s season-opening 1-0 win in Phoenix.

“It was good to get him a couple of games prior to this, just in case,” said Vanney. “You never know how things go.”

 

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Neil Davidson, The Canadian Press