Commentary: Nick Rimando's recent performances raising eyebrows

Nick Rimando - Real Salt Lake - winter jacket

USA Today Sports

In the 58th minute on Saturday, an injured Nick Rimando walked off the field at Rio Tinto Stadium to considerable applause from Real Salt Lake fans.

It was the first match Rimando was substituted out since before the 2010 season, and any time the longtime No. 1 has to exit, it’s cause for concern.

Prior to the substitution, Rimando gave up two goals to Atlanta United. Both were initiated from him playing the ball out of the back — a hallmark of RSL’s style of play for years, something Rimando’s normally thrived at compared to just about any contemporary in MLS. But entrusting the ‘keeper to get the ball in a safe spot is a risky endeavor, and Rimando fell short on each of the goals conceded.

The first was more blatant, and Atlanta duly capitalized on the turnover in their final third:

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The second one was compounded by Rimando rushing forward to try and cut off the angle for Atlanta, only for the visitors to have two players on the break, making the goal itself a formality.

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The problem lies in that this isn’t the first poor outing by Rimando this season: He also coughed up a couple howlers, including a mistake playing out of the back, in a 4-2 loss to Minnesota United on April 1.

Whether one element of Rimando’s game, playing out of the back, isn’t quite there right now, or something more definitive is occurring, that’s impossible to say … yet. Maybe this is just an early-season blip. It could prove simply a bad run across a few games, something that happens to pretty much everyone at some point, ‘keepers especially.

But Rimando is 37. He’s had a phenomenal career, and given his age and experience — he is the all-time appearances and minutes leader in MLS, after all — his run might be winding down. We know he’s much closer to the end of his career than the beginning, and we’ll have to see how much time, if any, he’ll be out because of the injury. Routine mistakes have never been part of Rimando’s package, and it seems unlikely he’ll continue on if he can’t continue to be “The Wall of the Wasatch”.

The obituary on Rimando’s tenure will come only at the end, and on his terms. He deserves that. But we might have reached the point where Real Salt Lake, and MLS more broadly, are finally envisioning a future without one of the best-ever ‘keepers starting week in and week out.

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