Skip to content

Stuff of legends: Rimando performance deserves place among MLS’s best

Nov 3, 2012, 2:38 AM EDT

Real Salt Lake v Seattle Sounders - Western Conference Semifinals Getty Images

SEATTLE – It’s been 12 years since the Major League Soccer playoffs saw a performance like Nick Rimando’s. True, the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper was stellar during RSL’s 2009 MLS Cup run, but he outdid himself on Friday in Seattle. Holding the Sounders scoreless in one of the most lopsided 0-0s you’ll ever see, Rimando not only preserved his team’s chance to make it back to the Western Conference final, he put his name along side Tony Meola’s on the list of memorable playoff goalkeeping performances.

“These are the playoffs,” Rimando explained after saving RSL. “Big players step up in big games, and I think everybody stepped up tonight.”

Meola’s magic day came at RFK Stadium in 2000, his Kansas City Wizards in the MLS Cup final against a Chicago Fire team who, two years off a title and boasting the league’s best attack, were heavy favorites. The one thing the wizards had in their favor was the league’s Comeback Player of the Year, Goalkeeper of the Year and MVP: Meola.

Kansas City jumped on the Fire early with an 11th minute Miklos Molnar goal. From there, it was all Meola, the former U.S. international making 10 saves – many at point blank range – in guiding the Wizards to their only title:

Rimando didn’t come close to matching Meola’s 10 saves. In fact, the conventional numbers paint a pedestrian picture of his night, his five saves only one more than Michael Gspurning’s. Use nothing more than that – the most commonly referenced goalkeeper statistic – and you’d have no clue how remarkable Rimando was; however, if you look at Seattle’s crosses (30) and see the Sounders’s shots on target (five), you start to get an idea of Rimando’s dominance.

Where did those other 25 balls go?

Some crosses came to nothing. Others never found their way to goal, but more often than not, it was Rimando, either waiting on his line for Seattle to test him or, more frequently as the match went on, coming out to the edge of his six-yard box to punch Seattle’s service from clear of goal. His efforts earned the shutout, but they also earned him three stitches, a broken nose, and seven minutes of boos from the Seattle faithful as he laid on the ground bleeding, cut open after a 67th minute collision with Christian Tiffert.

“I commit for a ball and the next thing I know I’m on the ground,” Rimando said, asked to recalled the incident. “I was told that Christian Tiffert kind of followed trough, not intentionally, but he followed through with his forearm and got me.”

“We thought he was going to have to come out,” head coach Jason Kreis confessed after the match. “[The trainers] did a good job getting the blood stopped and Nick continued on with a real brave effort.”

MORE: Drilling down on Friday’s stalemate in Seattle

That reckless abandon – the command of his area – is what separated Rimando’s performance from the series of stellar efforts he’s given in the past. Always a man whose shot stopping could steal any game, the weakness in the 5’10” `keepers’ game has been his presence in the box. Tonight, however, he got stronger as the match went on. Whereas he looked tentative on the litany of corners Seattle won in the first half, in the second half he charged off his line, realizing he had to be more aggressive in the face of a relentless Sounder attack.

“[S]occer is like this a keeper has a night like tonight,” Mauro Rosales, launcher of so many of Seattle’s crosses, said after the match, trying to explain how Seattle’s best performance of the season ended in a scoreless draw. “[S]ometimes it’s just impossible to score. You can shoot from everywhere and not score.”

Teammates were more effusive with their praise.

“Nick’s a battler and there is no question that he is the best goalkeeper in the league in my eyes,” midfielder Ned Grabavoy offered. “I can’t say enough about Nicky. He’s the man of the match tonight.”

In the second half, Seattle attempted 20 crosses from open play. They only forced on save out of Rimando, and while that could be explained by poor execution, that would be a lie. Seattle was excellent on Friday, forcing the opposing keeper into remarkable saves on Brad Evans (25′), Sammy Ochoa (32′), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (33′), and Tiffert (51′). Rimando saved RSL.

“I think it will have to go down as one of the single best individual performances by any player that’s ever worn an RSL jersey,” Kreis said, an understatement.

Nobody will ever forget this performance, the type of effort that forces you to wonder who you else you could possibly want in a must-win game. In MLS, there’s no doubt. It’d be Nick Rimando, whose Friday’s performance makes you ask: Could Brad Guzan had done that? Could Sean Johnson or Bill Hamid kept that clean sheet? Would even Tim Howard have saved the night for RSL?

It’d be no disgrace to them if the answer was ‘no’.

Here are the highlights:

This video is no longer available. Click here to watch more NBC Sports videos!
Latest Posts
  1. MLS Player of the Week — Week 8: Columbus Crew SC’s Ethan Finlay

    Apr 27, 2015, 4:15 PM EDT

    Ethan Finlay, Columbus Crew SC Getty Images

    Maybe the best player in MLS that you don’t know about, it’s time to recognize Ethan Finlay.

  2. MLS Team of the Week — Stars of Week 8

    Apr 27, 2015, 3:30 PM EDT

    Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC Jozy Altidore, Toronto FC

    28 goals in 9 games means choices aplenty for this week’s MLS Team of the Week.

  3. St. Mirren captain accidentally spears teammate in the thigh in “daft prank” gone awry

    Apr 27, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT

    St Mirren v Hearts - Scottish Communities League Cup Final Getty Images

    Now 21-year-old midfielder John McGinn is set for three weeks on the sidelines, though he also has a heck of a story.

  4. The stingiest squad gets stronger: Vermaelen returns to Barca’s top La Liga D

    Apr 27, 2015, 2:18 PM EDT

    Thomas Vermaelen AP

    The 29-year-old Belgian center back joins a unit which has conceded just 19 goals in La Liga play, the best total in the league by six goals.

  5. Eden Hazard joins “freestyle” video, calls rabona off crossbar, walks away in victory (video)

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:35 PM EDT

    Hazard AP

    Hazard is now the PFA’s reigning Player of the Year. We doubt very much this video will make his peers think they voted incorrectly.

  6. Not even allowed an appeal: CONCACAF confirms Bush suspension for Champions League final

    Apr 27, 2015, 1:16 PM EDT

    America v Montreal Impact - CONCACAF Champions League Getty Images

    Backup keeper Erik Kronberg is ineligible for the competition since he was a part of Sporting KC earlier in the tournament.

  7. Newcastle legend Shearer takes aim at players, Magpies “mess”; Carver asks for protection

    Apr 27, 2015, 12:07 PM EDT

    Newcastle United v Swansea City - Premier League Getty Images

    The headlines aren’t being kind to Newcastle on Monday morning, and it seems their manager is sick of his players’ performance and grief from supporters.

  8. MLS progress report: Checking in on the East-West supremacy battle

    Apr 27, 2015, 11:08 AM EDT

    Cristian Higuita, Diego Chara AP

    True to form, the West is leading. Perhaps not to expectations, but leading nonetheless.

  9. Premier League Playback: Chelsea brilliant, not boring, as title inches closer

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:35 AM EDT

    Mourinho Getty Images

    PST’s Lead Writer and Editor takes an alternative look at Week 34 in the PL.

  10. VIDEO: Premier League Team of the Week — Stars of Round 34

    Apr 27, 2015, 10:10 AM EDT

    Britain Soccer Premier League AP

    Find out which club put forth a performance that was second to none in Round 34 of the Premier League.

  11. MLS official squashes rumor of emergency intra-MLS goalkeeper loan for CONCACAF Champions League final

    Apr 27, 2015, 9:21 AM EDT

    Andrea Pisanu, Sean Johnson, AP

    A potential week-long loan of Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to the Montreal Impact for this Wednesday’s second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League final against Club America is not going to happen.

  12. VIDEO: Premier League Player of the Week — Round 34

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:35 AM EDT

    cD05ODdlNmNhY2MwMjRlZWQzNTJhM2ViYTQ1Y2VlY2YzOCZnPTViMDJlZDhlYjcxNDdmN2UxMmYxZTdlMDRmNjAxNzM1 Getty Images

    Find out whose star shone above the rest in the Premier League this weekend.

  13. 10 things you should know about Premier League new boys Watford

    Apr 27, 2015, 8:08 AM EDT

    Thumbs Up Thumbs Up

    Elton John. American skippers and Harry Potter. Get to know the Hornets ahead of their PL return.

  14. Rodgers unsure whether Sturridge will return for Liverpool this season

    Apr 27, 2015, 7:50 AM EDT

    Manchester City v Liverpool - Premier League Getty Images

    Sturridge and Luis Suarez registered 52 PL goals last season. Liverpool as a team has 47 this season.

  15. MLS Snapshot: New York Red Bulls 1-1 LA Galaxy

    Apr 26, 2015, 7:18 PM EDT

    DC United v New York Red Bulls Getty Images

    Final: New York Red Bulls 1-1 LA Galaxy

Featured video

Should Chelsea be more entertaining?