Nov 3, 2012, 2:38 AM EDT
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.”
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!
Jul 1, 2015, 8:30 AM EDT
Joe Prince-Wright dissects the big deals of the summer so far and takes a look at the latest transfer gossip doing the rounds.
Jul 1, 2015, 7:10 AM EDT
England international right back Clyne has signed a long-term deal at Anfield.
Jul 1, 2015, 12:12 AM EDT
Jill Ellis takes a lot of criticism, but she got it right again on Tuesday, moves that got the U.S. into the World Cup final.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:50 PM EDT
It’ll be an interesting story to follow as it unfolds across American soccer’s top flight.
Jun 30, 2015, 11:20 PM EDT
For 32 glorious minutes, we thought there was a good chance we’d see a third-tier side in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup’s quarterfinals.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:47 PM EDT
The United States played its best soccer in two years with a victory over Germany in an epic win over Germany.
Jun 30, 2015, 10:03 PM EDT
Either Landon Donovan is emotionally removed from last summer’s World Cup roster omission drama, or the USMNT legend just passive-aggressively lashed out at former coach Jurgen Klinsmann.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:38 PM EDT
There will be a blockbuster final to the Copa America, as Argentina thumped Paraguay to cruise to the final.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:21 PM EDT
With one brilliant 90-minute performance, the United States reasserted itself as the best team in the world.
Jun 30, 2015, 9:00 PM EDT
The U.S. is headed to the final for the fourth time in seven tournaments.
Report: Pearson’s firing due to Leicester players’ racist sex tape scandal, “definitely not a football issue”
Jun 30, 2015, 8:08 PM EDT
Will either side be able to rebound from the latest incident?
Jun 30, 2015, 7:04 PM EDT
The Ivorian international, 28, appeared set for a 4-year deal worth about $14.5 million.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:41 PM EDT
There hasn’t been a single clean sheet kept in a match-up of these two teams since 2010. Should be a fun one.
Jun 30, 2015, 6:12 PM EDT
Lauren Holiday and Megan Rapinoe return from their yellow card suspensions to play starting roles in Tuesday’s Women’s World Cup semifinal.
Jun 30, 2015, 5:51 PM EDT
There’s haves, have nots and have a lots, and the Los Angeles Galaxy are in the final category.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:45 PM EDT
A long-standing right bone bruise will keep the Houston Dynamo midfielder out of the upcoming Gold Cup.
Jun 30, 2015, 4:04 PM EDT
An incredibly-confident man who branded himself the “Godfather of women’s football” certainly won’t relish sitting this one out.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:45 PM EDT
How to stay in touch with all the Open Cup action in Tuesday’s four games.
Jun 30, 2015, 3:11 PM EDT
Foxes decide to fire Pearson despite the greatest of “great escapes” during the 2014-15 season.
Jun 30, 2015, 2:20 PM EDT
The two best goalkeepers in the world square off in the Women’s World Cup semifinals.
- VIDEO: Breaking down the done deals and transfer gossip in PST Extra 0
- Liverpool complete $20 million signing of Nathaniel Clyne from Southampton 0
- Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup roundup: Union, Orlando, Chicago move on as Charlotte bounced 1
- With the World Cup on the line, the USWNT gave us a vintage performance to savor 1
- United States defeats Germany, advances to Women’s World Cup final 17
- Reports: Galaxy on verge of landing El Tri star Dos Santos as “core player” 9