Photo credit: John Lok, The Seattle Times
Was it the saves? Was it the blood? Was it all of the above?
When the dust settled after Friday’s MLS playoff game at CenturyLink Field — a scoreless tie between Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake — it was all about Nick Rimando. The RSL goalkeeper made four saves in his fourth-straight shutout of Seattle, but that only begins to detail his impact over the course of 90 minutes.
Rimando, 33, also played through a crushing collision with Sounders midfielder Christian Tiffert, the impact of which required stitches and a broken nose to be rest.
“I think it will have to go down as one of the single best individual performances by any player that’s ever worn an RSL jersey,” said coach Jason Kreis, calling it “a real brave effort.”
Kreis said the team feared Rimando would have to come out of the game when he wouldn’t stop bleeding. The doctors did their part, though, and the goalkeeper finished the game, having to make a couple big plays over those final 20 minutes.
Rimando said he feels OK and his eyesight is fine, but he doesn’t remember much of the play.
“I just got told. I have no idea. I commit for a ball and the next thing I know I’m on the ground,” he said. “I was told that Christian Tiffert kind of followed trough, not intentionally, but he followed through with his forearm and got me.”
So what did he think of his performance overall?
“These are the playoffs,” Rimando said. “Big players step up in big games, and I think everybody stepped up tonight, it wasn’t just me. I did my part for sure, but so did everybody else.”
Teammate Ned Grabavoy called the goalkeeper’s showing “unreal” — particularly on a pair of first-half stops on corner kicks, first on Sammy Ochoa and then on Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
“I’m on the post, so I have the best view of anybody, and I see the ball come in and I see that their guy is going to win it no question,” Grabavoy said. “He goes ahead and I think it is a goal all the way. The first one he just tips right over the crossbar. The second one was another split second reaction. Nick’s a battler and there is no question that he is the best goalkeeper in the league in my eyes. I can’t say enough about Nicky; he’s the man of the match tonight.”
Sounders were impressed, too.
“Their keeper had an amazing night,” said midfielder Mauro Rosales. “… If a keeper like today has a night that he has, sometimes it’s just impossible to score. You can shoot from everywhere and you don’t score.”
“He had a great game and awesome saves,” added goalkeeper Michael Gspurning. “I looked afterwards at his face and he really was a little damaged. So all the best to him, that he recovers 100-percent. … You don’t wish anybody to get hurt. But yeah, he was one reason we didn’t score today.”
Coach Sigi Schmid knows Rimando well, from shared time at UCLA in the late 1990s.
“Yeah, I don’t like it when goalkeepers get hot against us,” Schmid said. “I know Nicky fairly well and he’s a good goalkeeper. He’s courageous and his reactions are good. … Is he going to be hot the next game? I don’t know.”
Rimando said he’ll be ready for it: “I’m ready to get back home and handle business on Thursday.”
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What did you think of Rimando’s night Friday?