After the whistle blew, ending a 2-0 Real Salt Lake home victory over Seattle, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando met Sounders forward Clint Dempsey in the middle of the field. The U.S. national team teammates embraced and shared a laugh.
Just three minutes before, Rimando had saved a beauty of a free kick by Dempsey amid confusion over the sneaky restart. That save secured Rimando’s eighth shutout of the season on a night where RSL leaned on its veteran goalkeeper to help claim a crucial three points in its playoff hunt.
“Nick is incredible,” RSL coach Mike Petke said.
He fumbled for the right word to describe the 38-year-old goalkeeper that made four athletic saves to keep a clean sheet Saturday. Petke came up with “ageless.”
“Nick could possibly play until he is 45, perhaps, if he keeps going like this,” he said.
In the third minute of stoppage time, the Sounders were rewarded a free kick outside the box. Before RSL had time to organize, Dempsey took the shot.
Real Salt Lake was listening for the whistle, but the Sounders never asked for 10 yards, allowing them to do a quick restart.
When Dempsey started his run up to the ball, Rimando stood hugging the near post, lining up the wall.
The Sounders’ highly decorated forward struck the ball on the ground, aimed at the far post, and Rimando took off across the goal. He made the save just before sliding into the net and grabbing onto the post to keep from colliding with it.
“You need key players in every position but someone like a goalie, who’s an isolated position, who is the last man out there, just one incredible save a game can win the game for you and can spark something in the team,” Petke said. “And [Rimando] had two, three, four tonight as usual.”
Rimando’s final save of the match came within 15 minutes of another dangerous Dempsey shot.
In the 80th minute, Sounders defender Kelvin Leerdam took the ball up the right side and crossed it to Dempsey just above the six-yard box.
Dempsey one-timed it, and Rimando stretched his right hand up and swatted the close-range shot away.
The Sounders recovered the ball, and Victor Rodriguez sent a shot just wide of the far post, which a diving 5-foot-9 Rimando stretched full-length to cover.
Rimando’s heroics began in the first half, most notably upsetting a promising chance for a Sounders goal in the 37th minute.
Seattle defender Roman Torres shot from outside the box, and RSL midfielder Luke Mulholland blocked it with the outside of his right foot.
Rodriguez sprinted centrally and controlled the Mulholland’s deflection. With his second touch he sent a shot between RSL defenders Tony Beltran and Marcelo Silva. But he couldn’t get it past Rimando. The goalkeeper dove to his left and knocked the shot away.
RSL’s shutout win moved it up to fifth in the West, with help from a Houston tie and losses by both Dallas and San Jose.