U.S. Men’s National Team goalkeeper Nick Rimando is not your typical player in a January camp. While many players here are in the early stages of their professional lives and looking to launch their international careers, Rimando is 32 years old and is competing in his fifth January camp. After a decade of keeping his name in the mix, Rimando’s goal remains the same – to keep getting the call from the National Team.
For as many players that have come and gone through the U.S. Men’s National Team, the one with the greatest longevity during the past decade of January camps has been 32-year-old goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Rimando is in the midst of his fifth January camp in a period covering 10 years. Times were different in 2002 than today’s professional lifestyle filled with iPhones, iPads, iPods and other technological devices that players used to pass the time while on the road.
“Back then, I think it was a cassette player,” Rimando said with a laugh.
At this stage of his career, Rimando could easily choose to take this time off to rest and recharge for the season. But the bottom line is that like previous coaching staffs, U.S. MNT head coach Jurgen Klinsmann sees Rimando’s ability, and Rimando wants to take this shot to add to his five international caps and play a bigger role for the program.
“It prepares me for the season, but it also gives you a chance to show the National Team coach what you can do,” the Real Salt Lake goalkeeper said. “The reward after the long month of work is the games at the end of the camp. And if you do well in that, you never know if you could be in the mix with the National Team.
“I’m still here,” Rimando said. “The coaches see something in me, and I think that’s a credit to my hard work during those 10 years. At the end of the day, I still want to be a part of this team.”
Rimando remembers his first January camp back in 2002 because he was without a Major League Soccer team heading into the session. Rimando helped the Miami Fusion win the MLS Supporters’ Shield in 2001, but following the season the league decided to close the Fusion’s operations. Rimando found out his next destination during the camp.
“Bruce Arena was the [U.S. MNT] coach, and he came up to me and let me know that I was going to D.C. United before I even knew,” Rimando said. “That was kind of a weird camp to go into because I was recognized for what I did during the season with Miami, and all of a sudden I don’t have a team. But I was trying to get a spot on the National Team. That was the weirdest story for me, and then knowing that I was going to D.C. at the end of that camp.”
For the younger guys in Carson, Calif., who might not have been through this stage before, Rimando is more than familiar with how January camps are conducted and what players need to be focused on.
“Come fit,” Rimando offered when asked the most important advice he could give. “Be ready to run, and go in with an open mind – especially this January camp. Jurgen threw a lot of stuff at us, and if you don’t have an open mind and you’re not ready to put the work in, then you’re going to be lost.
“I kind of know the routine,” Rimando followed. “It gets tweaked a little bit with the different coaches. It’s a camp where you get recognized from your season and you come in and put in a lot of hard work. Nothing’s really changed in that aspect.”
Rimando’s perspective of the January camps paints a fitting image of the state and development of the sport within U.S. Soccer. Years ago when training camp opened the year, many of the key cogs were involved. With so many U.S. players now based overseas, these three weeks present a huge opportunity for young talent to get quality time in front of Klinsmann and Co.
“Usually the group that went in back in 2002, those were the players,” he said. “There weren’t a lot of players in Europe. Those were the players that went to the World Cup and went to the Gold Cup. Now you have a younger group that comes in, and I think that it’s great that the players get recognized for their performance and have a chance to show what they can do.
“Training with Tony Meola, Zach Thornton, Kevin Hartman, Jon Busch – there have been so many players that have been in and out over the years, and those were great experiences,” Rimando added. “I’ve had the chance to learn from different coaches like Bruce Arena, Bob Bradley and now Jurgen. You see their different views on the game, the different approaches to training, and their different styles. It’s been great for my development.”