SANDY — What kind of rabbit will Nick Rimando pull out of his hat this Saturday?
Last week, the U.S. international made a pair of late, jaw-dropping saves to preserve Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 victory over visiting Portland, earning MLS Player of the Week honors in the process. He won the same award in Week 1 after a late PK save in Los Angeles secured a 1-0 victory.
“He’s amazing," RSL captain Kyle Beckerman told reporters after last week's win. "I just think it’s normal now. He’s a national team goalkeeper and that’s the type of things those goalkeepers can do.”
Rimando, or the "Wall of the Wasatch" as he’s been dubbed, has been making acrobatic saves for 15 seasons now, and that longevity has him on the threshold of a prestigious MLS record.
Last week’s shutout was the 111th of Rimando’s storied career — 75 with Real Salt Lake — leaving him one shy of retired Kevin Hartman’s MLS record of 112.
Rimando can equal that record this Saturday when RSL hosts the Vancouver Whitecaps at Rio Tinto Stadium at 7:30 p.m.
Whether the record-setting shutout comes this weekend or next — or perhaps even after the World Cup — it’s an inevitability, and something teammate Nat Borchers is proud to have been a part of.
“I think it’s awesome. I think all of us on this team can take pride in it. We’re all part of it. We’re all defending for him, trying to make his job easier. He’s obviously coming up with some huge saves, and he’s very deserving of all the shutouts,” said Borchers.
Prior to joining RSL, Rimando earned seven shutouts in two seasons with the now-defunct Miami Fusion and then 29 more during a five-year run with D.C. United.
Asked if he expects Rimando to put any extra pressure on himself against Vancouver, Borchers said not in the least.
“He puts pressure on himself every game, just like the rest of us do. Every game is important. If you want to keep that edge and play at the highest level, you definitely have to put pressure on yourself every game,” said Borchers.
Real Salt Lake enters Saturday’s match as the lone unbeaten team remaining in MLS, and has a history of success against Vancouver (2-0-1 record in Utah).
Vancouver is winless in April (0-2-1) after starting the season with a strong 2-0-2 record, but RSL coach Jeff Cassar is very impressed with the Whitecaps' attacking quality.
“They’re a very dangerous team going forward. They have a lot of athletic players, a lot of fast players, especially on the counterattack,” said Cassar. “And then their No. 10 player (Pedro Morales) is a nice player from Chile. It’s a good pickup by them. He sees the field, he shows up in different spots, so their front four is very good.”
Third-year Jamaican striker Darren Mattocks, who has two goals and three assists this season, is someone Borchers will certainly have his eye on.
“He’s fast, he’s getting better in this league. I think he was raw the first couple years, but I think he’s learning how to play in this league. He can score bags of goals and you’ve got to be ready,” said Borchers.
Vancouver ranks second in MLS in shots on goal this season, and RSL’s back line could be busy as a result.
Saturday’s match figures to be the last at Rio Tinto Stadium for Rimando, Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio before they depart for the World Cup in mid-May. RSL’s next two matches are at Chicago and Houston.
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