Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake on the Past, Present and Future

Sometimes interviewing professional players is tough. Ego’s, timing and personalities can make things difficult. However recently I had the opportunity to speak with Nick Rimando of Real Salt Lake. It was an absolute pleasure. We discussed the team’s ups and downs as well as his thoughts on the future and even the fan base in Utah. It’s clear how much he cares for his teammates, the fans and the city. Rarely do you meet such a passionate, yet down to earth athlete who has won championships. Here’s the full interview. Enjoy!

MLS Reserves: You are a little over halfway through the season. What are your thoughts thus far?

Nick: “Every good team goes through some spells where they’re not going to play their best soccer. I think the best thing about our team though is the way we bounce back. We continue to keep our heads up and not dwell on a bad performance. We are still up there in points with a lot of games in hand. I think the spirits are good and the confidence is there.”

“The season is going well. Not the way we envisioned it but we’re climbing up the ladder more and starting to play better. We want to peak at the right time.”

MLS Reserves: Real Salt Lake has suffered setbacks this season with the Champions League and the loss of Javier Morales. What has the team talked about in the locker room consistently to keep yourselves motivated and keep your heads up?

Nick: “We need to stick together. It’s been our motto these past few months just to stick together. Things will sort themselves out. If we trust each other and have each others’ backs things will work out.”

“We did lose one of the best midfielders in the league. That cut us a bit and made us step back. We’ve started to learn to play without him. I think our confidence went away a bit after the CONCACAF game. But we stuck together. We continue to believe in ourselves.”

“Injuries happen to every team and there’s no excuse in that…but injuries have hit us hard this year, myself included. It’s something that we have to cope with. I think the boys have done well with it; we’ve gotten results this year with players out of position.”

MLS Reserves: You’ve had success before but it seems like you’re playing your best soccer now under Jason Kreis. How important is he to both Real Salt Lake and also to you as a player?

Nick: “I think when you play a guy that is so passionate and who has played the game, it makes it easy to adapt to his style. I knew what kind of person he was by playing with and against him before. He has the same mentality I have to go out there and work hard.

He understands us a bit more because he was a player. He understands the traveling, the day in and day out of training…it’s easy to understand and play for him.”

“He’s made it clear that he doesn’t just care for us as players but as people. That goes a long way for me. You can go to him with anything outside of soccer and he’s there for you. You want to play for a guy like that.”

MLS Reserves: Real Salt Lake is coming off a pretty big win against New York where you essentially reminded the league why you are contenders consistently. What are you doing to take that momentum into Toronto?

Nick: “I think right now we just want to go out there and work hard. The coaches talked to us and made us feel relaxed with no pressure. You know we went out there and proved that we’re a good team. When we perform we perform well and can be one of the best teams in this league.”

“With a lot of away games coming up we have to concentrate on winning that next one. We need to be relaxed and do what we do best…the soccer will come.”

MLS Reserves: One of the more fun things about watching Real Salt Lake is watching the connection between you and Kyle Beckerman…

Nick: “Yeah definitely. We’ve grown up together. He was in my wedding, he was a rookie when I was a rookie…we’ve kinda seen this league develop and when we met up here [RSL] it was like “why can we be a good team?” We took it in our hands with some other veterans to take this team to a winning mentality. We both take it personal when we lose and when things don’t go right.”

“There’s this unique friendship off the field that carries on the field. I think we’re not the only ones on the team. Nat [Borchers] is there as is Javier [Morales] who is a bit more quiet. The competitiveness between us is something the guys feed off of.”

MLS Reserves: You’ve been an icon at Real Salt Lake for quite a while and you’ve seen that fan base grow. Can you talk a little bit about what that’s been like seeing it grow?

Nick: “Coming from DC the fans were fantastic there. This was a new club when I came over and we played in a football stadium on turf. I was surprised to see the outcome of some of the fans there. I didn’t know how big soccer was here in Salt Lake. I think the big trigger though was getting the stadium.”

“The fans have set off on us getting a winning mentality and knew that we were the next thing in Utah. These fans love their teams here in Utah and they’ll support a winning team whether it’s a Real jersey or a Jazz jersey.”

“For me personally, they’ve taken me in.  I try to give back as much as I can either through social media or giving away tickets, seeing kids at hospitals. I think that’s why people like us and feel like they’re our friends and fans. It’s easy to meet us and interact with us.”

MLS Reserves: It seems like a lot of RSL players enjoy those media events and meeting your fans. It seems like you enjoy connecting with your fans.

Nick: “That’s something you also have to give credit to the front office with. They won’t sit us on a chair on a Sunday in a supermarket when no one is going to be there. They do a good job of putting these events on and being involved in charities and the community. I think that’s a big thing that you have to do to have the community have your back. It pays off when you walk in on Saturday and the stands are packed.”

MLS Reserves: One of the more exciting things recently has been Luis Gil. He’s come on and done well. A lot of fans have noticed not only how talented he is, but how small he is. Do you guys ever give him a hard time about that? Any jokes in the locker room?

Nick: “No haha, and to be honest he’s a lot bigger than we was in his first year. He’s put on probably twenty pounds since last year. He was a tiny little boy his first year getting knocked off the ball. He’s worked hard in the offseason to get some weight on him and he’s quicker.”

“We might give him a little stick but that’s natural for any young player in the league. He takes it well and he’s a good kid. He wants to be better and he wanted to be here to play with Javier and learn stuff. Now that Javier’s been injured he’s taken an opportunity and done well with it.”

MLS Reserves: Lastly I’m curious for your thoughts on Jurgen Klinsmann taking over the national team.

Nick: “You know I think time will tell. Every position goes through transitions of coaching staff and players. I have tons of respect for Bob and Bruce as well. It’s a changeover that happens all around the world. I just hope I do well enough with Real Salt Lake and that I can show Klinsmann I can play well.”

MLS Reserves: What do you think about when you think of your future? Are you looking at playing for a long time, coaching, leaving the game? What’s in Nick Rimando’s future?

Nick: “I want to continue to play here as long as I can. I have a terrific job and I love playing here. My family loves Salt Lake City and I want to continue to play. I know that’ll have to stop one of these days but I see myself staying in the soccer world; hopefully staying in Utah. I keep my options open though. Who knows, goalkeepers age pretty well. Hopefully I play another five or ten years and continue to help this franchise win more championships.”

I couldn’t help but be impressed by Nick’s professionalism and attitude. There is a clear passion for more than just soccer. Rimando has a passion for fans and connecting to those who support him. You can follow him on twitter @NickRimando and see him between the pipes for Real Salt Lake commanding the box.

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