HOUSTON – As recently as two years ago, the idea that Real Salt Lake would be one of the two best-represented clubs at the MLS All-Star Game was laughable. But no one’s laughing now, says goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
“It’s huge that we get the recognition,” said Rimando, one of four players on the All-Star roster representing last year’s surprise MLS champions. “We didn’t have that early on when RSL first came on. When a team does well, players get recognized.”
Besides Rimando, Kyle Beckerman, Javier Morales and Jamison Olave were also named to the All-Star team (though Beckerman, still recovering from foot surgery, will not play). Other than the LA Galaxy – who also have four players on the roster – no team has left more of a footprint on the squad that will face Manchester United on Wednesday.
But star power and the Galaxy are a combination fans have gotten used to. RSL have never had this many players on an All-Star roster. In fact, in 2006 and ’08, not a single Salt Lake player was represented in the midsummer showdown as the team struggled in its early going.
“[Those were] the bad times when I first got here,” recalled Rimando from All-Star training on Tuesday. “There [were] a lot of losses and just not happy times. We kind of switched that around.”
The 31-year-old Rimando is making his second All-Star appearance here in Houston, but his first in nine years. He said he’s enjoying the most prolific span of his career thanks to an organization that has reinvented itself – not only into a championship club, but one with a commitment to winning and a place that turns players into stars.
RSL look strong this season in defense of their MLS Cup title. They trail only the Galaxy in the Western Conference standings and last weekend extended their home unbeaten streak to 19 regular-season games, a run that dates back to May of last year.
“It’s not a surprise to me how well we’re doing,” Rimando said. “We have the right players on the field and the right coaching staff. That’s making us winners. It’s fun going to work.”