The team wanted to reward one of its top players who had starred for two years while being drastically underpaid. The player knew he deserved it, but also that holding out for a monstrous sum could end in disaster.
Wait a minute.
That doesn't sound like a professional sports contract negotiation.
Yet that might be just the thing that sets RSL apart from many pro sports teams, both in Major League Soccer and out. Its willingness to work with goalkeeper Nick Rimando on a one-year contract extension through 2013 and Rimando's willingness to work with the team shows the cooperative dynamic that has helped RSL become one of the league's model franchises.
"He's another player that has been loyal to us and done some fantastic things for the club," coach Jason Kreis said, "and it's nice that the club can reward him for that."
Terms of the deal were not disclosed, so we won't know how big a raise Rimando is getting from the $131,000 he made last season, when he was among the lowest-paid starting goalkeepers in the league. But we figure to find out when the MLS Players Union releases its annual list of players salaries in the coming weeks. It's likely the team increased Rimando's salary for the next two seasons, in addition to adding a year to the back end of the deal.
Whatever the amount of the raise, you'd have to say Rimando deserved it — and more.
He was the most valuable player of the 2009 MLS Cup after saving the penalties that allowed RSL to win its first title, then anchored a record-setting defense that allowed just 20 goals last season.
Yet Rimando knows that holding out for a king's ransom could have jeopardized locker room chemistry, upset the carefully crafted "team is the star" ethos at the club, or assured that he wouldn't get an extension at all.
Sure, he probably aimed as high as he could in negotiations — that's how they work, after all — but in the end he showed just the kind of understanding of the league salary budget that you would expect from a union representative in a league that lacks unbridled free agency or massive profits for owners.
"I’ve been in this league 10-plus years," he said, "and you can’t be reaching for the bank if you want to be on a good team and win championships. Not one team that has won a championship with a [designated player]. Give and take on my situation. I wanted to be here. I love it here and I knew I had to give a little bit if I wanted a contract extension. It fell right for both sides."
Rimando is the fourth player to have signed a new deal with RSL since last season, and the number will reach five if and when the team hammers out terms on an extension with defender Nat Borchers, whose contract is due to expire after the coming season.
"We have the right mindset now," Rimando said. "All we want to do now is step on the field and win."
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