HERRIMAN — Free agent Nick Rimando had a difficult decision this offseason.
Chase the allure of the Southern California life — where he grew up and also played college soccer — and sign with one of the two Los Angeles MLS teams courting him, or continue to call Utah home and sign with Real Salt Lake.
He entertained multiple offers over the offseason, but officially chose the latter on Monday as he signed a multi-year contract extension with Real Salt Lake on the first day of the season.
The announcement became official on Tuesday, and following training at the Zions Bank Real Academy in Herriman, Rimando expressed his excitement to be back.
“It was intriguing to go back home and where I grew up, where I played college ball. But thinking about it, this is home, and this is where I want to be,” said Rimando, the longest-tenured player on RSL’s roster.
Real Salt Lake kicks off its 14th season on March 3, and for Rimando it will be his 12th with the club after joining the team prior to the 2007 season.
In his 11 seasons in Utah, Rimando has amassed a 130-98-79 record in MLS with 101 shutouts and a 1.12 goals-against average.
Prior to joining RSL he spent seven combined seasons with Miami and D.C. United, and along the way he rewrote the record books as he’s MLS’s all-time leader in games played, games started, wins, saves and shutouts.
The foundation for his career was laid in Miami back in 2000, and Rimando reflected on those early days in MLS following training at the sparkling new indoor facility in Herriman on Tuesday.
He recalled practicing on a high school field in Florida in the early days of the league and then driving back to the team’s locker room facility somewhere else.
“And now we have this facility. It’s special for sure,” he said.
The Herriman facility will now be Real Salt Lake’s permanent training facility, with eight outdoor fields and two indoor fields.
RSL will likely spend 99 percent of the time training outdoors on grass during the season, but the indoor fields are allowing the club to spend the first week of the preseason in Utah instead of traveling to a warmer climate and living out of a hotel for most of the preseason.
“Preseason is long, if you can get a week at home and still get in the work you need to put in, it makes everyone a little more comfortable,” said Kyle Beckerman.
Real Salt Lake will still spend a good chunk of the preseason on the road, including eights days in Tucson, Arizona, and 11 days in Orlando, but getting the preseason started at home is a luxury the players appreciate.
The Zions Bank Real Academy came with a $78 million price tag, and Albert Rusnak said it shows for sure.
“It’s a Premier League standard facility. There are not many in MLS like this, hopefully this will be a standard for this league as well,” said Rusnak.
The second-year midfielder said he’s been chomping at the bit amid the longest offseason in his career.
“I’ve never had that much time without soccer. For the last five weeks, I’ve just been waiting for this day,” said Rusnak. “I’m sure everybody else is looking forward to start the season the way we finished the last one. Last year we started bad, and it cost us the playoff spot, so we have to think about the start of the season already.”
There were two notable absences from the first two days of the preseason, Yura Movsisyan and Sunday Stephen.
Movsisyan is under contract with the club, but it’s extremely unlikely he’ll spend 2018 with RSL.
“We are currently working on a solution that is the best for Yura and the club together,” said Petke.
Stephen has been a no-show during the first two days of preseason, and Petke expressed his opinion on the matter by referencing a comment New England general manager Mike Burns said about fellow no-show Lee Nguyen.
“Lee didn’t report to preseason and he’s not honoring his contract,” Burns told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ll handle the matter internally, and we’ve already had discussions with MLS. It’ll be handled appropriately. We have zero tolerance for guys who don’t honor their contracts.”
New RSL signee Alfredo Ortuno arrived in Utah on Tuesday, and the Spanish striker is expected to be at training on Wednesday.
The first phase of preseason includes players from Real Salt Lake and the Real Monarchs, and some of the Monarchs players will accompany the team to Tucson next week.