At 31 years old, Nick Rimando is the elder statesman in a January camp where the average age is just over 23 years old. But for goalkeepers, with age comes the experience that is the foundation of success at that position. The California native has seen a lot since being drafted in 2000, and comes into this cap physically fit and with his usual calm mentality. With the help of fans on Twitter, ussoccer.com talked shop with the 2009 MLS Cup MVP...
ussoccer.com: What’s it like being the grand poobah in this camp?
Nick: “It’s definitely different than other camps I’ve been in. I’m in a different role being the veteran. I’ve been trying to be there if anyone has questions and lead by example.
ussoccer.com: Have a lot of the younger players taken advantage of the opportunity to ask ‘the answer man’?
Nick: “More so before camp. They were asking how intense training would be, what the running was like. A lot of guys were scared the fitness would be intense. I told them it could go two ways: I’ve been to camps that were brutal, and others that were mellower on fitness and had a lot more playing. Expect the worst and hope for the best! So far, this camp has been about playing.”
ussoccer.com: Are you enjoying the leadership role?
Nick: “As a goalkeeper, you have to be a leader. Guys have to respect you and be willing to listen to what you say on the field. I think I’ve grown up a lot and taken more of that role. I learned from guys like Jaime Moreno and Pablo Mastroeni what is expected of a leader. “
ussoccer.com: Anything different you notice about this younger group?
Nick: “The biggest thing is that instead of playing cards, these guys are all playing video games. At meals, everyone is talking about who is best at FIFA 11 and Halo. I’m oblivious.”
alecko11 from Twitter asks: Of all the MLS players Nick has housed in his basement over the years, who was the best and worst roommate, and why?
Nick: (Laughs) “The best would have to be Josh Gross, who is now team administrator in Philadelphia. He was very clean. Dema Kovalenko too, because he brought a lot of eye candy around the house. The worst is also Dema. The Ukrainian food he cooked had a quite a unique scent.” [Editor’s Note: Nice try, Alecko. Nicky knew it was coming from you!]
aayorkshire from Twitter asks: Nick's contract with RSL is running out. Does he want to stay, or is he interested in going elsewhere?
Nick: “I always like to keep my options open, but I love RSL and Utah and hopefully something will be worked out.”
teehee9546 from Twitter asks: Do you feel like you are a good role model for young athletes?
Nick: “I’d like to think so. I’m easily approachable, and I try to do as much charitable work as possible, because I think our team can and should give a lot to give back to the community. I make it a point to meet the fans and make a personal connection. They have always been there for us.”
tomastomtom from Twitter asks: Where did he start his career?
Nick: “I started playing when I was five in youth leagues around Montclair and Chino. When I was ten, I played club ball and eventually made it on to the U-17 and U-18 youth national teams. On my club team we had Carlos Bocanegra and Steve Cherundolo – not a bad defense! From there I got spotted by UCLA. I played three years and then got drafted by the Miami Fusion.”
ussoccer.com: We’re listening to The XX while we’re talking. How did you get into this group, and what else is on the playlist these days?
Nick: “My buddy works for Live Nation and promotes a lot of shows in California, so he got me into this band. They are new. It’s very mellow and good music with a different sound. I’m into a bunch of other stuff, like Rancid and Social Distortion. Social D is playing tonight in Anaheim; I’m bummed to be missing it.”
ussoccer.com: How has being a dad made you different?
Nick: I have two kids. The oldest is going to be three in February, the youngest turned one in December. I always loved kids, and always wanted to be a dad. I love coming home and seeing my kids, and the job that I have gives the chance to spend a lot of time with him. I’m definitely not going out as much.”
ussoccer.com: They say goalkeepers get better with age. How much better are you now then when you started in Miami?
Nick: It’s night and day. It’s 11 years in, and I’m playing my best soccer now. In this position, it’s all about repetition. I truly believe as a goalkeeper you have to get games. I’ve matured a lot, mostly learning from my mistakes. I’m better at reading the game, which is critical for a keeper my size.”
ussoccer.com: Has your size for a goalkeeper been something that people have always questioned?
Nick: Even at the youth club level, I was known as one of the ‘keepers that was good, but size was always a question. Even when I got drafted late in third round, people said I only got picked up because I was project 40 and didn’t count against the roster. Those types of comments have always driven me.”
ussoccer.com: You have always been a big fan of tattoos. Any new art?
Nick: My latest tattoo is for Benny Rose, my daughter. Benny is spelled out, with roses going up side of my ribs. I’m not sure how I got into it. Back in the day, tattoos were looked on as a bad thing. I think of them as art. A lot of mine are personal and represent things in my life. Others are done by new artists with new styles. I don’t enjoy getting them because it hurts, but I definitely enjoy expressing myself that way. It doesn’t help that one of my best friends is a tattoo artist.”
ussoccer.com: You’re an experienced goalkeeper, and you obviously know what the goalkeeper situation looks like for the national team. What was your motivation coming into this January camp?
Nick: “A part of it was to get seen again by Bob. This might be my last go round, and any chance to be in front of the national team coaches is important. We are very deep in goalkeepers in the U.S., and I want to make sure that if there is any opportunity that I am in their minds. I had a good campaign last year, and a lot of credit went to being in January camp and the confidence I got carried over to the preseason with RSL. I’m superstitious, so for sure when I got invited I was coming again.”