Reports this week surfaced that 2017 MLS expansion club Atlanta United are interested in acquiring Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Rimando is arguably the greatest goalkeeper in MLS history and recently finished his 10th season with Real Salt Lake. A former youth and college teammate of Carlos Bocanegra, Rimando is the second highest paid goalkeeper in MLS and is slotted to make $420,000 in 2017, the last year of his current contract.
So should Atlanta United be making an effort to bring in an expensive 37 year old goalkeeper who likely only has a couple of seasons left in him? Absolutely, but only under one condition, if Real Salt Lake leaves Rimando unprotected in the upcoming MLS Expansion Draft. Nobody knows whether or not Real Salt Lake will protect Rimando during the draft, but it shouldn’t surprise anyone if they don’t. It would be completely understandable if they opt to protect younger players that they have under contract beyond 2017. Atlanta United are not the only club that should have Rimando on their radar, Minnesota United will also be joining MLS in 2017 and will be participating in the Expansion Draft.
Let’s take a deeper look at a scenario where Rimando is left unprotected during the Expansion Draft. There will certainly be several established MLS players available in the Expansion Draft with greater value than Rimando due to their cheaper contracts and age. However, if you are Atlanta or Minnesota and Rimando is still available in the 4th or 5th round as the talent available begins to dwindle, you have to take him.
In the 2011 MLS Expansion Draft, the Montreal Impact selected Brian Ching, a Houston Dynamo legend, knowing he might not ever appear in a match for them. Montreal ended up trading Ching back to Houston in exchange for a future MLS SuperDraft 1st round pick because Ching refused to finish his MLS career with a club other than Houston. They basically robbed Houston of a first round pick just by selecting Ching. It is possible that we could see a very similar situation unfold if Rimando is available in the Expansion Draft. Rimando is 37 years old, has a family with children, and a settled life in Salt Lake City. Why would he want to uproot his entire family’s life and move to Atlanta or Minnesota? Rimando’s value in MLS right now is greater than what Ching’s was in 2011. By selecting Rimando, Atlanta or Minnesota could expect a first round pick, allocation money, or a combination both in exchange for Rimando if they were to trade him back to Salt Lake.
Now what if Atlanta or Minnesota selects Rimando and Salt Lake is not interested in trading back for him or are offering too little in return? They would have acquired one of the all-time great players in MLS to lead a group of players that has never played together. The beauty, you only have him under contract for one season. If Rimando begins to show signs that he is losing his ability, you can move on and look to sign a younger and cheaper goalkeeper for the 2018 campaign. Any way you look at it, this is a low risk move for Atlanta or Minnesota.
We can’t forget that this entire situation is completely high pathetical, but it is something for Real Salt Lake, Atlanta United, and Minnesota United to start thinking about. The Expansion Draft is not until December 11th so the clubs have a few weeks to consider the moves they would like to make up until that time. One thing is certain, this MLS offseason will be the most exciting we have had in a while.