The second time was a charm.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando's rights were originally acquired by Real Salt Lake in last offseason's trade for Freddy Adu. But with Scott Garlick expected to be the starting keeper for the squad, and unable to reach a contract agreement, Rimando was shipped to the New York Red Bulls. Two weeks later, however, Garlick announced his surprising retirement and Real was left without a starting goalie. Luckily, New York was willing to ship Rimando back to Salt Lake for a small price.
That price seemed even smaller as the season wore on. All Rimando did was go on to start 27 games, save over 75 percent of the shots sent at him, and become RSL's most valuable player.
"I'm running out of words," said Real head coach Jason Kreis when asked to talk about Rimando's play after one of his six wins for the team last season. "(He was) stellar, fantastic, saved another game for us. Saved two points for us."
It became common place for Kreis to heap praise on the play of Rimando. It is something that the team hopes will continue in the 2008 season as well. While the roster has seen some dramatic turnover, the goalkeeper position has been constant and should be a real strength for the team. Rimando has earned the right to be the starting goalkeeper, but should his play slip, Real has one of the best backups in Major League Soccer waiting.
Chris Seitz was taken with the fourth overall pick in the 2007 SuperDraft by RSL. While learning behind Rimando last year, Seitz has also gained valuable experience on the international level. He competed at last summer's U-20 World Cup, and he is currently trying to help the United States qualify for the Beijing Olympics. At such a young age he just turned 21 last week he is making the predictions the team had for him come true already.
"We think we got the best goalkeeping talent to come along in a while," said former coach John Ellinger after the team drafted the 6-foot-3, 230-pound netminder. "Seitz has all the physical tools. Great hands, shot stopper, good in the air, he is legit. He will challenge for the national team goalkeeper position at some time here in his career. It was a no-brainer for us. We knew that he was the perfect fit."Of course, the hope is that neither goalkeeper needs to keep up their spectacular play. Rather, that the defense will be so much improved that it will not matter. But when the defense does falter, and opponents get their opportunities, Real should be able to take solace knowing that it has two, or rather four, very capable hands as the last hope.