Nick Rimando is one of the all-time greats, not only in RSL history, but MLS history. He broke records, saved games and won championships. As fans, we watched him with anticipation, knowing that every game he played could be spectacular because of a miracle play or a dominant performance.
So here’s an ode to Nick Rimando, the winningest goalkeeper in MLS history.
Despite his smaller-than-normal stature for a goalkeeper, Nick has had one of the most extensive and decorated careers ever. He began his career by being selected 35th in the 2000 MLS SuperDraft by the Miami Fusion. The impact was immediate – he started 22 games in his rookie year and finished seventh in MLS in saves that year. However, in those 22 games, he allowed a total of 41 goals – not a bad number by any means, but significant. Significant because he never allowed that many goals in a season ever again.
It is a testament to his work ethic and talent level. Nick Rimando was well respected around the league and especially within the Real franchise for his humility and willingness to improve. Coach Freddy Juarez said of Rimando, “He trains hard all the time, he’s a true warrior, a great professional and deserves everything he has gotten.”
That work ethic and drive has led the “Wall of the Wasatch” to receive quite a bit of hardware. During the 2001 season, Rimando helped Miami win the Supporters’ Shield and would win another in 2006 with D.C. United.
Nick is also a two-time winner of the MLS Cup, once with D.C. United in 2004, and again with RSL in 2009 and started in goal as the U.S. took home the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup title.
The 2004 season was as impressive of a year as a goalie can have, considering Nick was hampered with injuries and lost his starting spot. He finished with 38 saves in only 13 games started, and ended with a 7-3-3 record, taking over in goal for the stretch run at the end of the campaign.
In the postseason, Rimando came in clutch. In the conference final, D.C. United faced the New England Revolution in what would be the first MLS playoff game decided by penalty shootout. The game was tied 3-3 after extra time, meaning Nick was thrust into the spotlight to defend his goal and give his squad the upper hand. With D.C. holding a 4-3 lead in penalties, Clint Dempsey stepped up to even up the score. If he converted from the spot, New England would still have a chance. If Rimando stopped it, it would send his squad to the MLS Cup.
We know what happened. Nick saved the penalty, and D.C. went on to win the fourth MLS Cup in club history.
2004 had ended on a high note with a title, but the next one was even more special (mainly because he was wearing a Real Salt Lake kit).
Nick Rimando would lead the team to the 2009 MLS Cup title, while receiving the MLS Cup MVP Award.
During the season, Nick played at an all-star level, but in the postseason he performed like an MVP. He only allowed 29 goals and had 79 saves, all in the course of just 26 games in the regular season, as RSL snatched the final playoff spot on the last day of the year. His biggest contributions, however, came when it mattered most.
After preserving a trip to the final in penalties in the conference final against Chicago, the next match was once again decided by penalties, and once again he came up big. With the penalty shootout even at 4-4, the LA Galaxy had a chance to take the lead, sending forward Edson Buddle to shoot. Rimando made a diving save to his left, giving RSL defender Robbie Russell the opportunity to score. Russell converted and Real became MLS Cup champions.
Nick not only helped his teams reach new heights, he also hauled in some individual accolades as well.
- 2009 MLS Cup MVP
- MLS All-Star (9): 2001, 2010-16, 2019
- MLS Save of the Year: 2012, 2013, 2019
Even more impressive are some of the many records he set in his 20-season career.
- Wins (223)
- Games played (514)
- Minutes played (46,336)
- Saves (1,705)
- Shutouts (154)
- Penalty-kick saves (33)
- First goalkeeper in MLS history to 200 wins
If you were/are a fan of the Miami Fusion, D.C. United or Real Salt Lake, much of your team’s success can be traced to Nick Rimando. If you are a fan of MLS, he provided many highlight-reel plays that flooded social media. If you are a fan of soccer, thank him for the growth he brought to the game in the United States. Finally, if you are a fan of sports, appreciate Nick for the inspiration he gave, dominating the game despite his 5’9” stature.
I remember Nick’s final home match, the first round of the playoffs against Portland. I remember a diving, finger-tip save that I saw in his last regular season home game, one of the many. I sat behind the goal, certain the ball was going in. Nick was certain about something, too. Certain he would stop it.
He always was.
So thank you Nick, for everything you gave to the game of soccer.