CARSON, Calif. – For 37-year-old Nick Rimando, there are only so many January camps left.
But this year's gathering in Southern California might just be the most important one in his international career. While it does appear that the No. 1 spot on the US national team's goalkeeping depth chart is more open than it has been in several years, Rimando’s been through these cycles often enough not to assume anything.
“I think everybody comes in with the right mind that the goalkeeper spot is open,” said Rimando. “I think anybody at this position or anyone around the field wants to play.
“Come training, you do what you can to open the eyes of coaches and hopefully provide something to this team. First step is getting invited to this camp, the next thing is the opportunity to play.”
The veteran 'keeper produced perhaps his best performances with the national team in the 2013 CONCACAF Gold Cup, where he started five of the Yanks' six matches, compiling a perfect record and only allowing four goals as the US cruised to the championship.
With incumbent starter Tim Howard not expected to fully recover from groin surgery until March and Brad Guzan struggling for regular minutes at Middlesbrough, Rimando went into this offseason knowing a good showing in January could pay off when it comes time to make call-ups for that month's CONCACAF World Cup qualifiers.
Real Salt Lake head coach Jeff Cassar has seen the work Rimando has put in, and he’s impressed.
“Nick has had a wonderful offseason,” Cassar told MLSsoccer.com. “He's worked incredibly hard. He's fitter than I have seen him over the last two years.
"Obviously, getting called into the national team was big. I think he's starting to see that this is a very important year and I have seen his preparation level jump up to a different level."
A new chapter is afoot at RSL, where the longtime core of Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales is down a member after Morales left for FC Dallas this winter. Rimando understands that’s just the breaks.
“It’s tough in the business to lose a player that’s been a mainstay,” said Rimando, “but I think everybody understands that it’s a business. You lose good players sometimes but you’ve got to just keep moving forward. Hopefully the front office and coaches pick the right players to replace them.”
Rimando also dismissed the rumors that he was close to leaving for Atlanta United FC this offseason. For his part, RSL general manager Craig Waibel maintains that there was no truth to the chatter, either.
“There's chatter about everything,” said Waibel. “The only conversations I can be concerned with are the ones that happen in my office and those conversations didn't happen.
“I think they're fun to write about. I imagine if I was in the world of fiction I would write about it as well, but I'm more non-fiction in my job.”