HERRIMAN — Contrary to his status as a "commissioner’s pick," Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando did not receive a personal phone call or text message from MLS boss Don Garber prior to his selection to the MLS all-star game Monday morning.
The honor of notifying Rimando of his inclusion, then, fell to the club — and specifically, RSL coach Mike Petke.
And true to Rimando’s humble, sometimes self-deprecating form that has become a trademark over his 20-year MLS career, the coach had to convince his shot stopper that, yes, he was deserving of the honor of being one of three goalkeepers in the league to face Atletico Madrid on July 31 in Orlando (ESPN).
Surely, there’s another goalkeeper who is having a better year, he reasoned. Maybe a younger player who could benefit from the experience of playing one of La Liga’s top sides? Someone who isn’t preparing to hang up the gloves at the end of the year?
No, this honor was reserved for Rimando, Petke assured him.
“At first, he went through a whole bunch of emotions,” Petke explained to a small group of reporters Tuesday after practice. “This is a great honor. He knew it; he was just doing the humble thing.”
It’s not that Rimando didn’t want the honor. He was humbled by it, which may seem odd for a guy who will be making his sixth MLS All-Star appearance. It’s the same guy who was the MVP of MLS Cup in 2009, who won MLS save of the year in 2012 and 2013, who entered the league in 2000 and almost immediately (OK, one year later) was a reserve 'keeper as the now-defunct Miami Fusion won the MLS Supporters’ Shield.
Confused. Humbled. But above all else, the two-time MLS Cup champion Rimando was honored.
“I was surprised in the beginning,” Rimando said. “But now it’s all sunk in, and I’m going to enjoy every bit of it. It’ll be my last year, so hopefully, I go out there and represent the club and my teammates well.”
Rimando will go down as one of the best goalkeepers — maybe even the best goalkeepers — in MLS history. He owns league records in shutouts (146), wins (213), saves (1,662) and appearances (497).
Those records won’t fall anytime soon, either.
“In MLS history, Nick is the standard to me,” said Petke, who in addition to being the 40-year-old goalkeeper’s coach is also a contemporary. “One thing that the U.S. has done consistently is spit out very good goalkeepers: Kasey Keller, Brad Friedel, Tim Howard, Tony Meola, Nick Rimando. There’s a plethora of guys who you could argue are the best of all time.
“But Nick, to me, is definitely the best goalkeeper in the history of this league.”
Which makes this year’s MLS All-Star Game more than a celebration of a season. It’s more than a celebration of the league’s best, or a chance for fans to see one of the top teams in Spain on North American soil.
It will be part of a celebration of a career for the Southern California native Rimando — a career that spans two decades, three clubs, all four time zones, and has made its home on the Wasatch Front since 2007, when Rimando replaced the retiring Scott Garlick after the latter's unremarkable 37 games in goal.
The rest, as they say, is history.
And Rimando’s place in that history is well secured.
“I know a lot of people are reaching out, and saying I deserve this recognition. I appreciate that,” Rimando said. “But I just want to go to Orlando, take it all in, enjoy it with my kids who will be there, and hopefully get the result we want.”