SAN DIEGO – The United States is well known for the quality of its goalkeepers, and the most recent selections for the US national team may be the best indication of all.
For the Gold Cup, as well as the pre-tournament friendly against Guatemala on Friday here at Qualcomm Stadium (11 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, live chat on MLSsoccer.com), the goalkeepers on the roster – Nick Rimando, Sean Johnson, and Bill Hamid – all come from MLS.
All three have been part of Jurgen Klinsmann's national team set-up, but usually as back ups. Now, they get the chance to shine in the absence of Europe-based stars Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, and they each have extra motivation to make an impact. This Gold Cup is probably the best chance each of the three MLS keepers has to make his case to be the No. 3 man at next year's World Cup.
“It’s an opportunity to show Klinsmann and his coaching staff what I can do,” Rimando, the presumed starter, told MLSsoccer.com at training Wednesday. “Where I’m at now I know my role, it’s clear that Brad and Timmy are ahead of me. If I can play here and play well, then, yeah, maybe it does open some opportunities, at other places.”
Rimando has been in and out of the national team for years, although he normally serves as a backup to Howard and Guzan. He has only six caps over the 11 years since making his international debut in 2002.
In fact, the trio of Rimando, Johnson, and Hamid has only 10 senior caps between them. But Rimando, who at 34 is a decade older than Johnson and 12 years older than Hamid, is clearly looked upon as the mentor to his two younger counterparts.
“There’s always a respect," Johnson said. "Nick’s been there and done that. He’s a veteran. He’s helped me along since I worked with him a couple of years ago. Ever since my first January camp, in 2011, it’s been a good relationship, he’s pushed me.”
Rimando downplayed any sort of hierarchy among the goalkeepers, but he did indicate his interest in helping the up-and-comers:
“I think we’re peers, but I also think that I’m in a position where I know my role, and help groom them if I can,” he said. “I think we have a very open relationship between the three of us and if I can be around for any of them, that’s my role. I’ve been around and I have open arms to both of them."
He recognizes that Klinsmann is blooding Johnson and Hamid for the future.
“I think Jurgen’s doing well bringing them along slowly, and not just throwing them into the mix,” Rimando said.
But for all the talk about developing goalkeepers and figuring out who will be the #3 next summer, no one is losing sight of the ultimate point of this month's tournament.
“The goal is to win a championship, that’s the end in sight and that’s what we’ve been working towards,” said Johnson.