Carson, Calif. • Nick Rimando aims to keep things in perspective.
Even on the heels of his heroics in Saturday’s 1-0 win over the L.A. Galaxy at the StubHub Center, the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper said the three points to start the 2014 season — a feat RSL has now accomplished its last five regular-season openers — isn’t anything to dance over.
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"You always want to get off to a good start," said Rimando after thwarting a stoppage-time penalty kick. "I wouldn’t say that this is a huge win, but it’s a step in the right direction, for sure. We’ve got 30-plus more games, so we’ve got to continue to grow and make sure we’re paying attention to the details, because I think if you asked anybody in this [locker] room, we could have got a lot better tonight."
RSL checked off several boxes in the dramatic win over the Galaxy, including registering the first win of Jeff Cassar’s head coaching career, starting off the season tied atop the Western Conference table and preserving an early-season shutout on the road.
The shutout of Galaxy stars Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan on Saturday night was Rimando’s 109th career clean sheet, which leaves him three shutouts short of the all-time MLS record held by Kevin Hartman (112).
As evidenced through its depth during the 2013 season, RSL had several key contributors step up in the win over L.A., most notably forward Joao Plata and defender Aaron Maund. Plata pestered the Galaxy back line throughout the night and eventually notched the game-winner in the 80th minute. Maund, making his fourth career start with RSL in place of the injured Chris Schuler, held his own tasked with facing two of the league’s top attackers in Keane and Donovan.
"I think the team stuck together and we just kept moving forward," Maund said. "It’s just the first game — just trying to build off it."
Cassar praised Maund’s positioning and preparation for the important start for the 23-year-old former first-round draft pick.
"Just a focus, just really tuned into what was going on in the game," Cassar said. "He was unbelievable in the air and his passing was very good out of the back."
In his first match as a head coach, Cassar seemed to pull all the right strings. Second-half substitutes Luke Mulholland and Cole Grossman were instrumental in the victory. Mulholland, making his MLS debut, scored a goal that was deemed offside by the assistant referee and Grossman’s touch to Kyle Beckerman led to the through ball for Plata’s goal.
"Really proud of the guys," Cassar said.
But like Rimando, team leader Javier Morales said the club can’t find too much satisfaction in the road win. RSL heads back to California this week to take on the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium.
"[To get this result] in the first game of the season," Morales said, "it’s a lot of confidence for us."
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