For the second time in seven weeks, Nick Rimando was viewed as having the best 90 minutes of any player in Major League Soccer. The Real Salt Lake goalkeeper was named MLS Player of the Week Monday following three crucial saves that preserved three points for RSL (3-0-4) in its 1-0 win over rival Portland Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
Despite missing the previous two regular-season matches with a strained MCL, Rimando’s return to the starting lineup Saturday proved vital for RSL. Each of his three saves were highlight-reel displays, including two in the last five minutes of the match that left Rio Tinto booming.
Rimando’s full-extension save on Gaston Fernandez’s 88th-minute shot from distance kept the clean sheet just three minutes after a kick-save on Alvas Powell’s point-blank shot in the 85th minute of play. His 19th-minute stuff on Darlington Nagbe was the first of the three saves, in which the Portland speedster darted into the box and fired a shot to the near post, but Rimando’s quick reaction punched it out with one hand.
“It felt fresh tonight,” Rimando told reporters Saturday after the 1-0 win. “After two weeks of taking care of my knee, I just felt good out there and felt fresh. I guess I was up to the task tonight and a little luck on my side and we can look at the defense as well, and the players in front of me. They played well and helped me out.”
The 34-year-old goalkeeper now has 111 career regular-season shutouts under his belt, which puts him one shy of former MLS goalkeeper Kevin Hartman for the all-time record at 112.
“I think it’s a really great accomplishment, but I think when it comes, it comes,” Rimando said Saturday. “I’m not banking on it coming next week or the following week. I’m just thinking about getting a win and keeping this team moving forward. If it comes, it comes and when it comes, I’m sure everybody will make a big deal about it.”
Throughout his MLS career, Rimando has earned three MLS Player of the Week awards, three MLS Player of the Month Awards, 23 MLS Save of the Week awards and has won MLS Save of the Year in back-to-back seasons in 2012 and 2013.
“The saves were world-class,” said RSL coach Jeff Cassar, a former MLS goalkeeper himself, “and kept our team in it at timely times.”