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!
Aug 20, 2014, 11:15 PM EDT
Both Ronaldo and Ramos have gone to Madrid president Florentino Perez to ask him to keep Di Maria.
Aug 20, 2014, 10:20 PM EDT
Sunderland manager Gus Poyet believes United States striker Jozy Altidore is the happiest he has ever seen him.
Malky Mackay and Iain Moody investigated by FA for ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ text messages while at Cardiff City
Aug 20, 2014, 9:11 PM EDT
Malky Mackay has been reported to the Football Association for being involved in a series of racist, sexist and homophobic text messages.
Aug 20, 2014, 8:35 PM EDT
If Liverpool legend Jamie Carragher showed up to your training to sign autographs, what would you ask him?
Aug 20, 2014, 8:15 PM EDT
Arteta’s status means that Jack Wilshere and Mathieu Flamini will be the holding midfield partnership against the Turks.
Aug 20, 2014, 7:25 PM EDT
Champions League play-offs continued on Wednesday with a series of tight contests headlined by a 1-0 victory for FC Porto at Lyon.
Aug 20, 2014, 6:35 PM EDT
Could Mario Balotelli be Liverpool’s answer to replace Luis Suarez?
Aug 20, 2014, 5:43 PM EDT
Malky Mackay can’t escape Vincent Tan after Cardiff owner files report with FA that prompts Palace to withdraw managerial offer.
Aug 20, 2014, 5:40 PM EDT
Will Cristiano Ronaldo’s back injury prevent him from playing the second leg of the Spanish Super Cup?
Aug 20, 2014, 4:55 PM EDT
Liverpool fans can finally kiss goodbye that Warrior label but will that improve the designs?
Aug 20, 2014, 4:15 PM EDT
Dzeko becomes the sixth player this summer to sign a new contract with City.
Aug 20, 2014, 3:26 PM EDT
D.C. welcome Jamaican side Waterhouse to RFK, while Montreal head to El Salvador in CCL group stages.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:50 PM EDT
Red Devils finally land their man as Argentine defender signs five-year deal.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:35 PM EDT
Nani is being paid his Manchester United wages in full… to play for Sporting Lisbon.
Aug 20, 2014, 2:20 PM EDT
The diminutive Croatian midfielder will remain at Real after proving himself in the Spanish capital.
Aug 20, 2014, 1:49 PM EDT
Check this out: one of the craziest tattoos from a soccer fan, ever.
Aug 20, 2014, 1:25 PM EDT
Fer, 24, is back in the Premier League as QPR capture box-to-box midfielder.
Aug 20, 2014, 12:25 PM EDT
Set to arrive in MLS in 2017, the league’s newest franchise has already sold a staggering number of season tickets.
Aug 20, 2014, 11:49 AM EDT
Wenger: “It’s very difficult to understand but, in the second half, the performance of the referee was very bad.”
Aug 20, 2014, 11:01 AM EDT
Muller: “The amount that foreign clubs were offering me was astronomical. But Bayern are my club.”
- Angel Di Maria gets love from Ronaldo, Sergio Ramos and Diego Simeone 0
- Jozy Altidore is the happiest he’s ever been, says Gus Poyet 2
- Malky Mackay and Iain Moody investigated by FA for ‘sexist, racist and homophobic’ text messages while at Cardiff City 4
- Liverpool and AC Milan in talks over deal for Mario Balotelli 5
- Atlanta’s new MLS franchise has already sold 14,000 season tickets 9
- No signings in 2015: Barcelona’s transfer ban upheld, FIFA rejects appeal 3