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Real Salt Lake 2014: Tim Howard's break gives Nick Rimando a chance he deserves

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Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick RImando didn't play in the 2014 World Cup. Through no fault of his own, Rimando sat behind goalkeepers Tim Howard and Brad Guzan in Brazil, waiting for his opportunity to play, while becoming the Americans' biggest and most vocal supporter on the bench.

On Thurs. Aug. 22 Howard decided he needed a year away from the US Soccer team entirely, setting into motion a chain of events that could move Rimando up the chain of command among American goalkeepers.

Howard, far and away the Americans' most important and visible player in Brazil, announced he will not be playing for the U.S. again until the fall of 2015. So where does that put Rimando? In the whole scheme of things, it places the RSL goalkeeper in a very good spot going into next summer's CONCACAF Gold Cup.

For one, Howard does not necessarily get to keep his starting role; he will have to earn it back. While many would argue that Howard has earned the right to start immediately based on his stellar performance in Brazil, that's not the way things work in US soccer team coach Jurgen Klinsmann's system.

"He has a wish to take a step back to take care of his family, and we came to the conclusion that it’s absolutely fine that he takes time off from international soccer until after next summer’s Gold Cup, and then we re-evaluate," Klinsmann said Thursday in Sports Illustrated. "I told him as long as he is the same Tim Howard that we always see performing well, he will be welcome back with open arms and right back competing for a spot. He knows that he has to prove that he deserves to be back."

Rimando was between the posts at the 2013 Gold Cup--a tournament the U.S. Soccer team won rather handily. So the chances that the Americans would go with Rimando again at the 2015 version is high, possibly higher now that Howard has decided to go on sabbatical.

While one competition ends between Howard--arguably the world's best goalkeeper--and the other Americans fighting for a starting spot, another battle begins, according to Klinsmann. On the US soccer team, nothing is ever guaranteed though. The USA Today thinks DC United 'keeper Bill Hamid--not Rimando--is next in line, for example. Klinsmann didn't go that far in his comments--but before anyone even thinks about the Gold Cup, the starting spot for upcoming international friendlies is up for grabs, too.

“This gives us a huge opportunity to see Brad Guzan and Nick Rimando going forward and fighting for the No. 1 spot," Klinsmann added in the SI article. "We have young talented goalkeepers with Sean Johnson and Bill Hamid, who have been brought along the last couple years, so this may give them a chance here and there to get some game time. Always when somebody steps aside for a moment, it gives an opportunity for the next ones in line. “

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