Sandy • Jeff Cassar thinks Nick Rimando is the best goalkeeper in the history of Major League Soccer. Tony Beltran says Real Salt Lake’s anchor should be considered an MVP candidate every season.
Suffice to say, Rimando is important. To his club, country, teammates and fan base, Rimando is viewed as one of the top players in American soccer as the 34-year-old goalkeeper stalks the league record for career regular-season shutouts. The 15-year MLS veteran sits at 111 after his colossus outing Saturday in RSL’s 1-0 win over Portland, one shutout behind former MLS goalkeeper Kevin Hartman, owner of the record with 112 clean sheets.
Vancouver at Real Salt LakeSaturday, 7:30 p.m.
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"To think that a lot of us have been a part of so many shutouts, so many great games that he’s played, it’s an honor and we’re going to be a part of history here when he gets that 113th," said defender Nat Borchers.
Having been part of RSL’s back line in front of Rimando for the last seven seasons, Beltran said nothing has changed from Day 1 back in 2008 to now.
"He’s the best goalkeeper in the league," Beltran said. "I don’t think he gets the full recognition that he should. Every year, he should be an MVP candidate — he’s that good, he’s that much of a difference-maker and he’s a luxury to play in front of."
RSL has three more regular-season matches before Rimando and Kyle Beckerman are expected to join the U.S. men’s national team ahead of this summer’s World Cup in Brazil, which means Rimando has 180 minutes to tie the record and another 90 to own it.
The lone unbeatens
At 3-0-4, RSL is again new territory. The club has never gone undefeated through the first seven matches of a season. But the circle in the loss column doesn’t make the players puff out their chests.
"It’s all about just putting points on the board at this stage," Beltran said. "It’s a little too early to look at standings as well. … We could go seven unbeaten and go seven beaten in the summer, so it’s just about staying focused and understanding where you’re at in the season and continuing to get better."
Borchers told media members Tuesday he’d leave the talk of RSL being the sole unbeaten team in MLS seven weeks into the season up to the talking heads.
"We’re not really worried about it," he said. "We’re going to lose a game at some point in time, but it’s all about how we play right now."
The Vancouver Whitecaps are dangerous. RSL’s opponent Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium features four of the more dynamic attackers in MLS in Darren Mattocks, Kekuta Manneh, Kenny Miller and Pedro Morales. Together, the Vancouver players have combined for eight goals in 2014, and Cassar said RSL must be aware of the deft mix of talents up top the Caps sport.
"The four have a lot of freedom to do whatever they want with Mattocks, Manneh, Miller and Morales — who is a very good player — it’s again we’re going to have be good with the ball, or we’re going to pay for it on the other end," he said.
Borchers said the Mattocks-Miller combo up top features "two of the better strikers in this league."
"We’ve got to be switched on," Borchers said.
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