SANDY, Utah — Where do you start to talk about Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando's 111th shutout? With the point-blank shot he saved in the first half? With the point-blank shot he saved in the second half?
Rimando made so many saves that should be memorable in RSL's 1-0 victory over Portland on Saturday night that it sort of became a blur.
“He's amazing,” RSL captain Kyle Beckerman told reporters. “I just think it's normal now. He's a national-team goalkeeper and that's the type of thing those goalkeepers can do.”
“The saves were world-class and kept our team in it,” RSL coach Jeff Cassar told reporters. “Nicky was unbelievable.”
What made a typically exceptional performance by Rimando something special is that this was his first game back after injuring his knee playing for the USMNT in a friendly against Mexico on April 2. He missed Salt Lake's last two matches — ties at Kansas City and Philadelphia — as he rehabbed an MCL strain.
And, after cheering the 85th minute save that preserved the Claret and Cobalt's win, the fans in the sold-out Rio Tinto Stadium held their breath as Rimando was attended to after he hit the ground hard.
“The last fall is the one that really got me, but I felt good out there,” said Rimando, who did not re-injure his knee. And he fended off great chance after great chance by the Timbers, particularly in the second half.
“It felt fresh tonight,” Rimando said. “Two weeks taking care of my knee and I just felt good out there. I guess, up to the task tonight. It felt good to contribute like that after a couple weeks off and get three points in front of our fans.”
He credited his defense and “a little bit of luck” — in the 58th minute, a rocket by Portland's Maximiliano Urruti bounced off the post to give RSL yet another win over their Western Conference foes.
“We've built up a nice little rivalry with Portland and it's always good to get a win over them,” Cassar said.
The Timbers (0-3-4) remained not just winless this season, but winless in Utah since they entered the league in 2011. For that matter, they're winless in 11-straight games against RSL (0-9-2) in all competitions, both at home and away. And Salt Lake players are at a loss to explain it.
“I don't know,” Beckerman said. “I can't really explain it. We expect to win every game at home, and after getting two ties on the road we thought it was important to win that third game,” Beckerman.
“I don't know what it is,” Rimando said. “I think we're just always up for them. They're a good team. They like to fight and we like to fight. I don't know.”
Coming at some point in the not-to-distant future for the Salt Lake 'keeper will be an MLS record. He's just one short of all-time mark in career shutouts — and record-holder Kevin Hartman got to 112 in 59 more starts than Rimando currently has.
“It will be a great accomplishment, but when it comes it comes. I'm not banking on it coming next week of the following week, I'm just thinking about getting a win and keeping this team looking forward. And when it comes, I'm sure everybody will make a big deal out of it.”