After Tim Howard announced he was taking a one-year hiatus, the door for U.S. goalkeepers swung wide open for all comers.
Count Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando among those players trying to get his cleat in the door, vying for a spot on the US soccer team. He, along with goalkeepers Brad Guzan and youngster Cody Cropper, were called in on Thurs. Aug. 28 for the Americans' upcoming friendly against the Czech Republic in Prague.
Like anything else in life though, there is more to this story than meets the eye. Rimando is the only player from Major League Soccer making the trip across two continents and one giant ocean to play in this national team match. The other 21 players all ply their trades in Europe.
If you've been paying any attention to MLS players and their movement towards Europe, you're aware that Seattle Sounders defender DeAndre Yedlin--who starred for the US soccer team in Brazil during the World Cup--just signed a transfer to English club Tottenham Hotspur effective at the end of the Sounders' season.
Rimando signed a one-year, $225,000 contract extension with RSL in 2013. But, his contract is up at the end of the 2014 season, giving him an opportunity to test the open market if he wishes.
There is also the matter of the European transfer window remaining open until Aug. 31, a date which RSL fans probably have marked on their calendars in red ink--possibly blood. Until that transfer window closes, teams still have an opportunity to talk to Rimando's agent about a deal similar to Yedlin's.
While that is probably not news that RSL fans want to hear, it's the truth. Rimando knows he's up against time (he'll be a 15-year league veteran in 2015) and he knows he's battling for playing time against two goalkeepers from the English Premier League in Prague next week. So like everything else Rimando does, he'll give every ounce of effort to make a good impression.
To be sure, Rimando deserves every call up to the national team that he gets. He's unbeaten in his time with the Americans and he helped lead the U.S. to a CONCACAF Gold Cup title. Yet that open transfer window has to make RSL fans bite their fingernails down to the quiks--because Rimando isn't safe until that European transfer window closes. Even US soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann thinks the window is a hindrance to his players.
“It’s not good. I never understood why this transfer window ends Aug. 31 instead of July 31, because all the big clubs in Europe have made up their mind if they want a player or not. They should never drag this topic into the existing season. In Europe they’re playing already. The Premier League started, the Bundesliga starts now and Spain starts now," Klinsmann said on Thursday, following his announcement. "They should have transfers already done by July 31, but unfortunately they keep that window open until Aug. 31. Some of our players fall into that category where they haven’t figured out yet what their future will be club-wise, and that’s not good for us.”
Rimando's callup to the US soccer team on Thursday could be a double-edged sword here. It seems peculiar that Rimando, thick in the middle of his MLS season and in the midst of a playoff push, would be called up for a mid-week game on another continent prior to RSL's most important game of the season, a weekend home tilt against FC Dallas.
Even if Rimando is expected to play against FC Dallas that weekend--and he is--an injury, however miniscule, in training or in the friendly itself could severely hamper RSL's chances to win a title. It's a risky move by Klinsmann to bring Rimando in at this point--one that RSL fans might remember in a bad way for a very long time.
At any rate, Rimando gets to continue battling for a starting spot on the US soccer team against Aston Villa keeper Guzan--who was the No. 2 keeper in Brazil--and against upstart Cropper, who has been in the youth national team picture for years and currently plays at EPL side Southampton.