SANDY, Utah – History might be made on Saturday when Real Salt Lake host the Vancouver Whitecaps. And it's not just the possibility that the Claret-and-Cobalt could add to their team-record seven-game unbeaten streak.
Goalkeeper Nick Rimando is one clean sheet away from tying the all-time MLS shutout record, and should he be able to keep the Whitecaps off the board on Saturday evening (9:30 pm ET, MLS Live), he'll tie the retired Kevin Hartman with 112 clean sheets.
Hartman, who played for LA, Kansas City and Dallas, had 112 shutouts in 416 starts. Rimando has 111 clean sheets in 361 starts for RSL, D.C. United and Miami.
“It never ceases to amaze me,” RSL defender Tony Beltran told reporters. “But I should be used to it by now. This is my seventh year playing with him, and nothing is different from the first save until now.”
RSL coach Jeff Cassar agrees, but he's of the opinion that Rimando's game has changed over the past few years.
“Nick has always been able to make the incredible saves,” he told reporters. “I just think now he's a complete goalkeeper. His distribution. His command of the box. He just really does it all now.”
But Rimando's performance was above and beyond against Portland – so good that he was named MLS Player of the Week. And making that performance something extra special, Rimando was back in the lineup for the first time since he injured his knee playing for the US men's national team in a friendly against Mexico on April 2.
“It's amazing,” RSL defender Nat Borchers told reporters. “The guy got injured. Had to sit out two games. And then he comes back and he's in that kind of form. There's very few professional athletes who can do that.”
Everybody in Salt Lake sounds particularly impressed with Rimando except Rimando himself, who took it all in stride.
“I just felt good out there,” he said simply, quickly crediting “the players in front of me. They played well and helped me out a lot.”
The players in front of him are singing his praises, however.
“It's awesome to think that a lot of us have been a part of some of the shutouts, some of the great games that he's played," Borchers said. "It's an honor.”
Said Beltran: “[Rimando] is the best goalkeeper in the league. I don't think he gets the full recognition that he should. Every year, he should be an MVP candidate. He's that good. And he's a luxury to play in front of.”