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RSL legend Nick Rimando’s retirement plans changed due to COVID-19, but he may have found a new calling because of it

(Trent Nelson | The Salt Lake Tribune) Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando stands at the corner of the newly-named Rimando Way in Sandy on Friday Sept. 27, 2019.

Nick Rimando didn’t want to so much as look at a soccer ball after he retired at the end of last season. He was looking forward to getting his weekends back, attending any concert he wanted, fixing all the ailments on his body that had gone through 20 years in Major League Soccer.

But the COVID-19 pandemic put a halt to all those plans and caused Rimando to slightly shift gears. It even brought him back to soccer.

“I think this life kind of threw a curveball at us and kind of made me just kind of look at life a little differently,” Rimando said in a recent phone interview with The Salt Lake Tribune. “Just sitting on the couch gave me that itch back. Sports not being on, not being able to see soccer — I missed the game, I missed the sport, I missed being around people. And I knew that I could bring value.”

That value came in lending his expertise to budding goalkeepers. Rimando announced on his Instagram some time ago that he would start training goalkeepers individually. He got flooded with so many messages and requests that he eventually had to take down the post.

More recently, Rimando joined the RSL Youth Development Academy for its annual goalkeeping camp that started last week and goes through Aug. 12. But Rimando is more than just a famous name on the sign.

“I don’t want the kids to be dropped off and my name’s going to be there and just give autographs,” Rimando said. “If I’m going to put my name on this, I want to be on the field with the kids, giving them instruction, giving them advice and giving them the opportunity to really train with me and train with other RSL coaches.”

So far, Rimando said, the camp has gone well. And based on the number of people signed up for the remaining nine sessions, he’s confident they’ll continue to go well.

Rimando might have caught the coaching bug with his individual training sessions and involvement in the goalkeeper camp. He doesn’t think he wants to be a head coach, he said, but he’s liking the development side so far.

“I think this is the first step for me to kind of get my foot in the door, see what this coaching is about on the youth level and hopefully then can make my way up,” Rimando said. “I’d like to see where this takes me. If that’s a different coaching role or something in the office, then that’s what I’m going to have to decide.”

Rimando plans to move his individual training to Sporting IO in Salt Lake City, which opens sometime next month.

Working with young keepers isn’t all Rimando has been doing with his time. He’s also given back to the community in several ways.

He signed some of his old shoes, gloves and jerseys and auctioned them off to fans for whatever amount they decided to donate. The money he made went to several causes: those who work behind the scenes to make concerts happen, an animal shelter, the restaurant industry in Salt Lake City, and even the RSL grounds crew that was affected by layoffs and furloughs at the club.

So in one fell swoop, he was able to not only give back to his fans, but also help those in need during the pandemic.

Like everyone else during COVID-19, Rimando had to put several plans on hold. He was particularly excited to finally attend Ohana Fest in California, a concert in September that was slated to feature Kings of Leon, Pearl Jam and Eddie Vedder. In the past, he hadn’t been able to go because it was during the MLS season. But the concert was moved to next year due to the pandemic.

He also had a trip planned to Napa, Calif., where he said he has never been. He was to attend the Bottle Rock Festival there as well.

“It would have been a dream come true for this year to be able to travel and experience all these these concerts and countries during this time of my transition,” Rimando said. “But it just has to wait, just like a lot of things have to wait right now during this time.”

All the waiting does have its positives for Rimando. He’s been able to spend more time with his two children, who worked diligently on their at-home schoolwork and were done by noon much of the time, he said. That gave him the entire day to spend with them.

“Being home with my kids and girlfriend has been great,” Rimando said. “We’re making the best out of it.”

Throughout his career, Rimando formed many relationships with players and others around soccer who advised him on what he could do when he retired. People like Tim Howard, Carlos Bocanegra and others. He even chatted with MLS Commissioner Don Garber a few weeks ago to see how his expertise could best be used.

Many of his retired friends have done something different after their careers, and some are not even involved with soccer anymore. So even as Rimando has found an avenue into coaching for the moment, there’s nothing that tells him it’s the be-all-end-all for his life after playing.

“It gives me confidence that I don’t need to stick with soccer if I don’t want to,” Rimando said. “There are other outlets there and I know that I have resources to do whatever I want to do.”

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