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'Saint Nick' hands Real Salt Lake an early xmas present with shutout

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MLS Preview: Real Salt Lake - Seattle Sounders FC
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MLS Preview: Real Salt Lake - Seattle Sounders FC

Attackers win an unfair share of plaudits and awards. But sometimes a goalkeeper submits such an impressive performance that he can't help but steal the show.

That was the case in the 0-0 draw between Seattle Sounders FC and Real Salt Lake on Friday. Nick Rimando made five spectacular saves to earn the away tie.

"I think it will have to go down as one of the single best individual performances by any player that’s ever worn an RSL jersey," Salt Lake head coach Jason Kreis said.

Rimando hasn't given up a goal to Seattle in four games all season. He has one more match against the Sounders to go, in Utah on Thursday as the second leg of the Western Conference semifinal.

"[When] a keeper has a night like tonight sometimes it’s just impossible to score," Mauro Rosales said. "You can shoot from everywhere and not score."

Not even injury could stop the 33-year-old. Christian Tiffert caught Rimando in the second half, and the game paused for several minutes so that the goalkeeper could receive treatment, to a round of jeers from the Seattle crowd.  

"We thought he was going to have to come out," Kreis said. "We thought it was going to be a laceration that they couldn't get the blood stopped, and if that’s the case, then he has to come out. They did a good job getting the blood stopped and Nick continued on with a real brave effort."

After the match, RSL's medical team gave Rimando stitches and reset his broken nose.

"I feel good. I took a hit, but I feel okay -- focus, and my eye sight is fine,” the U.S. international said. "I'm ready to get back home and handle business on Thursday."

Salt Lake also failed to score, going up against Michael Gspurning, who pulled off four saves of his own. Gspurning finished the regular season with a 0.73 goals-against average, best among MLS goalkeepers who played 10 games or more. Jimmy Nielsen, who only conceded 27 goals all season, will likely win the goalkeeper of the year award, but Rimando proved why he's on the U.S. player pool with his impressive display against Seattle.

"Nick's a battler and there is no question that he is the best goalkeeper in the league in my eyes," Ned Grabavoy said. "He's a pure shot stopper."

Rimando left Seattle ruing an injury to Eddie Johnson and its finishing.

"Could Eddie Johnson have made a difference? Possibly," Sigi Schmid said.

Seattle has never advanced past the first round of the playoffs. Fredy Montero still hasn't scored in the postseason. Unless the Sounders can find some way past Rimando, neither stat will change come Thursday.

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