A six-time MLS All-Star and deserving of his own section in the league’s record books, it’s not overstating it to call Nick Rimando a Major League Soccer legend.
Rimando belongs alongside Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane, Chris Wondolowski and Sebastian Giovinco in the inner circle of MLS icons.
While often stuck behind Tim Howard at national team level, Rimando was long considered among the elite of MLS shot stoppers.
He didn’t enjoy quite the same team success as some of his peers (looking at you, Kevin Hartman), but Rimando was in the upper echelon of MLS ‘keepers throughout his career.
He was named to the All-Star team on six occasions, and thrice earned the honour of MLS Save of the Year.
Penalty-saving exploits were his trademark. The records tumbled in the last few seasons of his almost 20-year MLS stay. While not the biggest name in the States, Rimando’s place in the history of Major League Soccer is secure.
Let’s run through his playing career and some of his records.
Nick Rimando Career
Growing up in Montclair, California, Rimando went on to represent the UCLA Bruins at college level.
Starring as the Bruins won the College Cup, he first represented the USA’s national team at under-20 level in 1998 and was later selected 35th overall in the MLS SuperDraft by the Miami Fusion.
It didn’t take long for him to make an impact. He started 22 games as a rookie, and 25 in his second campaign, making numerous vital saves as Miami won the Supporters’ Shield in 2001.
With the Fusion folding after that successful season, Rimando was placed in the Allocation Draft and went third overall to D.C. United. Ever-present in 2002, an injury ended his season prematurely in 2003 before losing the starting spot in the capital.
He was number one again before long, however, and played a crucial role as the Black-and-Red won the MLS Cup. The 2005 campaign proved frustrating for Rimando, as he again lost his starting spot, resulting in a trade with Freddy Adu to Real Salt Lake.
Peculiarly traded to the New York Red Bulls and back to Salt Lake over the next couple of months, Rimando eventually settled with the Monarcas, and he led the league in saves in his first campaign with the franchise.
After a challenging first year from a team perspective, Salt Lake made a deep playoff run in 2008.
They went even better in 2009, winning the MLS Cup with Rimando delivering in penalty shootouts in the Conference Final and the MLS Cup Final. He became just the second goalkeeper to win MLS Cup MVP as a result.
The 2010 season was spectacular from Rimando and his teammates. Records were set for goals conceded and a clean sheet streak, though he somehow didn’t win Goalkeeper of the Year.
A contract extension followed soon after, and while Real Salt Lake never replicated their MLS Cup success, Rimando continued to accumulate individual honours with six All-Star appearances.
He also became just the second goalkeeper in MLS history to record 100 shutouts.
When he called time on his playing career in 2019, Rimando had amassed almost 600 club appearances and picked up 22 caps for the USMNT. He’s without doubt one of the greatest goalkeepers in MLS history.
Rimando saved an extraordinary 59 penalties across his MLS career. It’s no surprise to find out that’s a record in a league that has only existed for little over two decades.
Despite standing at just 5’9, with a frame that didn’t exactly fill the goal, Rimando had a knack for coming out on top from 12 yards.
That tally of saves doesn’t include shootout efforts that Rimando denied. Getting a penalty against Salt Lake or DC in their respective Rimando eras was far from a guarantee.
In fact, as his reputation grew as a menace from spot kicks, it became an intimidating occasion for takers.
Naturally protective over how he mastered the art, it was only after retirement that Rimando spoke publicly about his penalty saving heroics. The Athletic got a unique look at how Rimando became the greatest penalty saver in MLS history.
Nelsen passed on some expertise from Bobby Clark, former Notre Dame soccer coach and football lifer. Rimando explained how he so often guessed the right way.
“When they put the ball down, their hands show you where they’re going.
“It’s a mental thing that they don’t know what they’re doing, but they have in the back of their head. They know where they’re going, they’ll just put in a direction they’re going.
“Maybe they’ll try and use their eyes to trick you into going a different direction, but mentally they don’t know they’re tipping their hands.”
This little gem of wisdom had been passed down across clubs and leagues over the decades. Rimando continued, “Imagine you have a ball in your hands and it’s even on both sides.
“Like a steering wheel at 10 and 2. Now imagine your wrists go to your right, so now if you’re the taker, I would think he’s going to the goalkeeper’s left, the kicker’s right.
“Now, if he moves his hands to the left a little bit, now he’s showing me that he’s going to his left, and my right. He puts it down in that kind of direction. He doesn’t know he does it. He puts it down on the spot, but his wrists show me where he’s going when he puts it down.”
The penalty saving was just a part of Rimando’s MLS legacy, but given how he often delivered in the clutch, that information from Clark and Nelsen truly altered the history of the league.
Nick Rimando MLS Records
Rimando played almost two decades in MLS, achieving team and individual accolades throughout. Some of his records are destined to stand for years to come – let’s take a look at his numbers.
- Most minutes played in MLS history (46,336)
- Joint-third most shutouts in a season (14)
- Most saves in MLS history
- Most wins in MLS history
- Most MLS appearances ever (514)
- Six-time MLS All-Star
- Three-time winner of MLS Save of the Year