Two seasons removed from his scintillating performance in the MLS playoffs, and one season removed from the best year of his 11-year career, goalkeeper Nick Rimando has agreed to a contract extension with Real Salt Lake that will keep him in Utah through the 2013 season.
"Happy, relieved, focused only on CONCACAF right now and the Columbus Crew," Rimando said Friday. "It's something that we've been talking about for a while, credit to Real Salt Lake for rewarding me."
Ten starting goalies in MLS had higher salaries than Rimando last year, something he obviously wasn't thrilled about. Terms of the one-year extension weren't disclosed, but it's likely more than the $120,000 base salary he made during the 2010 season according to the MLS Player's Union website.
A raise was in order after anchoring a defense that set an MLS record with fewest goals allowed in a season with 21. He finished with a league-high 14 shutouts and a 0.67 goals against average. Throughout the season, he put together a 568-minute shutout streak and a 511-minute shutout streak, the third- and sixth-best streaks, respectively, in MLS history.
"(He's) another player that has been loyal to us and has done some fantastic things for our club, and so it's nice that our club can turn and reward him for that," said RSL coach Jason Kreis.
By keeper standards, Rimando is entering the prime of his career at age 31. He could've probably played out the last two years of his contract with the Real Salt Lake and demanded even more after the 2012 season. He said winning was more important.
"I've been in this league 10-plus years, and you can't be reaching for the bank if you want to be on a good team and win championships. There's not one team that's won a championship with a DP player," said Rimando.
"There's a give-and-take on my situation. I wanted to be here, we love it here, and I knew I had to give a little bit if I wanted a contract extension and be with this group of guys, these core guys and Real. It's something I wanted to do, and I understood I couldn't break the bank."
Earlier this month, RSL midfielder Will Johnson signed a contract extension that will keep him here through 2014. The two are part of a core group that management is committed to keeping around long-term. Johnson understands it's not always easy.
"You want to keep all your guys together. It's an extremely hard thing to do with a successful group. Because, granted, everybody who's a part of that success feels they deserve more and wants to be up there with the rest of the team, and obviously there's only 'X' amount of dollars to go around," said Johnson.
RSL captain Kyle Beckerman, a teammate of Rimando's a decade ago with the now-defunct Miami Fusion, is thrilled about the contract extension.
"I think he's been the best goalkeeper in the league for a while now. He doesn't get the accolades, but he continues to do it year in and year out," said Beckerman.
"I think he was robbed last year not winning the goalkeeper of the year, but he just takes it in stride and keeps working and keeps trying to make himself better. Our fans should be super happy he's going to be here longer."
Going back to their early days together, Beckerman said people always believed Rimando would eventually falter because of his lack of size.
"They gave his job to a taller goalkeeper in D.C., and you look at that franchise since he left. I don't know how many goalies they've gone through," said Beckerman. "He's just steady, you know what you're going to get from him. He's an unbelievable goalie with field-player feet."
Considering that his best years have been with Real Salt Lake, it's easy to see why Rimando wasn't itching to leave.
Key Real Salt Lake dates
Feb. 6-15 Training camp, Phoenix
Feb. 16-18 Training camp, Utah
Feb. 22 RSL at Columbus (CCL quarterfinals leg 1)
March 1 Columbus at RSL (CCL quarterfinals leg 2)
March 15 CCL semifinals (if applicable)
March 19 RSL at San Jose (MLS opener)
March 26 L.A. at RSL (home opener)