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Real Salt Lake’s Nick Rimando reflects on lengthy MLS career as he prepares for final home match on Sunday

Consistency, longevity are things Nick Rimando said he’s been most proud about during his 20-year career

Grace Almendarez, godmother to Real Salt Lake’s goalkeeper Nick Rimando, stands with him and his kids Benny Rose Rimando and Jett Nicholas Rimando at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. A street was renamed Rimando Way. Rimando will play his last home game on Sunday.
Grace Almendarez, godmother to Real Salt Lake’s goalkeeper Nick Rimando, stands with him and his kids Benny Rose Rimando and Jett Nicholas Rimando at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy on Friday, Sept. 27, 2019. A street was renamed Rimando Way. Rimando will play his last home game on Sunday.
Scott G Winterton, Deseret News

SANDY — Seven months after announcing this would be his final MLS season, and two days before his final match at Rio Tinto Stadium, Nick Rimando finally opened up publicly about his retirement decision on Friday in a packed media room at the RioT.

All season when asked about his decision, Rimando deferred, preferring to talk simply about the current season. He said the time to discuss his 20-year career would come at a later date.

That day was Friday with family and friends on hand, including his two children, Jett and Benny Rose, sitting by his side.

“I want to give that next generation a chance to shine. I was lucky enough to get my opportunity in Miami and was able to hold onto it. These kids dream just like me, they want to play professional soccer, they want to go to a World Cup and I’ve done that. I’ve done so much in my career, I think it’s time to hang them up and give that next generation an opportunity to reach their dreams just like I did,” Rimando said.

Rimando enjoyed a career that’s unrealistic for anyone to ever dream of.

With two matches remaining in the regular season, Rimando owns virtually every meaningful goalkeeping record in MLS history.

He’s played in 512 games, had 221 wins, 153 shutouts, 1,698 saves and 33 penalty kick saves. He won MLS Cups with D.C. United in 2004 and Real Salt Lake in 2009.

Of all the records, Rimando said the longevity of playing for 20 years is what he’s most proud of.

He’d love to create a storybook ending to his career, but first Real Salt Lake needs to secure a playoff berth, which it can do this Sunday with a win against Houston (5:30 p.m., KMYU) at Rio Tinto Stadium. RSL’s final regular season game is at Vancouver next Sunday, but the club would prefer not to keep its playoff hopes in limbo until then again.

Rimando joked with the media that he’d love to win one more trophy so he can get his daughter in a championship celebration photo.

When RSL won the MLS Cup in 2009, Rimando was holding his 1-year-old son Jett when the team lifted the cup.

Talking about his children was the only thing that got Rimando choked up about in discussing his career for 20 minutes with the media. For nearly a decade, one of the constants at Rio Tinto Stadium has been the Rimando kids racing to greet their dad on the field after the match.

Rimando said seeing that is one of the things he’s going to miss most about retirement. Then again, being around his children more is something he’s also looking forward to.

He hopes to keep calling Utah home, a place he knew nothing about when he was traded to Real Salt Lake prior to the 2007 season.

“This is home for me now. I absolutely love it here. The mountains, the lakes, this city is evolving just like the game,” said Rimando.

During his 13 years with Real Salt Lake, Rimando earned the nickname the “Wall of the Wasatch” thanks in large part to his 33 penalty kick saves in his career — 25 with RSL.

“Those are special moments to be able to pick your team up, to pick your fans up, to give your coaches a boost, and anyway you try and do that as a player, and that was my way of giving back to my team,” said Rimando.

Nothing came easy for Rimando in his first year with RSL, after all he wasn’t the club’s first or second choice anyway.

RSL acquired Rimando in trade from D.C. United on Dec. 11, 2006, a deal that also included teenage phenom Freddy Adu. Scott Garlick was the established keeper for RSL at the time and Rimando was acquired to be the backup.

A month later when Real Salt Lake drafted highly-regarded keeper Chris Seitz with the fourth pick, it was clear Rimando wasn’t in the team’s future and he was traded to the New York Red Bulls on Feb. 9. On Feb. 21, Garlick announced his sudden retirement and two days later the Red Bulls basically did RSL a favor by trading back Rimando for a worthless supplemental draft pick.

By all accounts, Rimando was going to be the placeholder until Seitz was ready to assume the reigns as a No. 1 keeper in MLS.

That moment nearly came just four games into the season when Rimando was benched after some very bad mistakes in a 4-0 road loss at Chivas USA.

Seitz got the start in back-to-back games, but new coach Jason Kreis elected to hand the job back to Rimando and the rest is history.

“It started rough. I didn’t have a great first season, but these fans have been there through thick and thin and when I’ve had my worst games they were still chanting my name,” said Rimando. “Devasted not to be playing in front of them next year, I hope I represented them well and I hope I gave them a couple of decent memories to look back on.”

The GOAT as he’s referred to in MLS, incredibly Rimando never won goalkeeper of the year, always being edged out by someone with a slightly better season. It didn’t help that he played in a small market either, but Rimando said while it irked him early in his career, it’s irrelevant now.

“Younger, the accolades mean so much, you want to be the best XI, you want to be the best goalkeeper, and as time went on those were meaningless for me. It was more so about playing and doing your best and achieving team goals,” said Rimando. “Of course you want to get those accolades, but for me it was one game at a time, one year at a time and those added up. For me, if I could be consistent that was awesome, that was good for me and I felt like I’ve been pretty consistent for a pretty long time.”

Rimando said these last few months have been an emotional time for him as the end of his career approached. On Sunday, he’ll soak up every last moment of his final game at the RioT. It will include driving on the newly-named Rimando Way — formerly Stadium Way. The last walk to the locker room, the last pregame, the last walk out the tunnel and the last time seeing Jett and Benny Rose race onto the field to greet him after 90 minutes are things he won’t take for granted.

None of it will change his retirement decision.

“I’m in a good place,” Rimando reiterated. “I’m solid with my decision.”