Around US national team camp, they’ve taken to calling Nick Rimando “grandpa.”
At 32 years of age, he’s still in his prime as a goalkeeper. But when it comes to January camps, which are usually filled with youngsters, the Real Salt Lake man isn’t exactly a spring chicken.
“I’ve been the oldest guy here for three years in a row!” Rimando laughed to MLSsoccer.com by phone from Phoenix on Thursday.
Rimando is a veteran of these January camps – his first was exactly a decade ago. This time around, he isn’t just the oldest man in camp, he’s the only one of the 20 players in Arizona who was born in the 1970s. The next oldest are his RSL teammate Kyle Beckerman and recently added Jeff Parke, both 29.
The comparison is even more stark when it comes to his own position. Rimando is clearly the veteran in camp, as Chicago’s Sean Johnson is 22, while Bill Hamid of D.C. United just turned 21 in November. And though Rimando admits his odds of making the 2014 World Cup roster are slim, he wants to make one thing very clear: He’s not just hanging around as an inspirational mentor.
“I think it’s without question that Timmy [Howard] is the No. 1,” he said. “I’m in a different situation where I’m a leader. But I’m not just a veteran who’s here only to help [Johnson and Hamid] grow, I’m here to compete. I’m going to make the best case I can to be the next guy in line.”
Rimando has a good chance to build on his five caps in a US shirt in friendlies against Venezuela and Panama later this month. This camp marks his second call-in of the Jurgen Klinsmann era, but he hasn’t featured since starting in a 1-1 draw with Chile last January under Bob Bradley.
His understudies in this camp have limited experience in a US kit. Johnson was Rimando’s substitute in the second half of that Chile game, while Hamid, though now a consistent call-in of Klinsmann, has yet to see minutes.
But Rimando sees huge potential in both – literally.
“The first thing you see is their physicality and size,” Rimando said of the 6-foot-4 Johnson and 6-foot-3 Hamid. “I’ve seen them both in [MLS] play. They make plays. They’re still young, of course and they have to grow. But that never stops. I’m still growing at 32. The more times they get called in, the more comfortable they’ll feel.”
Rimando believes both ‘keepers could be in line to eventually become heir-apparents to Howard. He points out that they’re both at the same age the current US No. 1 was when he was first called into national team camp (Howard got his first cap in a friendly against Ecuador in 2002, four days after his 23rd birthday).
And Rimando is looking forward to helping the young duo get there.
“That’s a role I have to take on for the next generation,” he said. “Hopefully I can help them be taught at this level the same way I was.”
But he’s not ready to step aside just yet. Rimando is quick to add that Brad Guzan’s recent resurgence is proof that the Aston Villa man is still deep into that conversation. And a certain other old guy, too.
“My goal is to do the best I can in this camp to be one of Klinsmann’s guys,” he said. “Not just on the field, but off it and in the locker room, too. I want to stay in this group and play until I’m 40.”