Nick Rimando's important role 

January, 23, 2013

Players and coaches often refer to it as the most important position on the field, but you wouldn't know that based on the lack of attention the national team's between-the-pipes pecking order received in the comments section following our recent assessment of the Yanks' depth chart.

The radio silence does make sense. Goalkeeper has been the least of American fans' worries since Tony Meola was manning the U.S. net more than two decades ago. Since 2001, there's been at least one Yank starting in the English Premier League. (At one point in 2007, there were four, or 20 percent of all EPL regulars.) So it's easy to understand why the country's steady supply of rock-solid backstops has long been taken for granted.

Here's the thing, though: It probably shouldn't be.

Sure, Tim Howard is firmly entrenched as the Yanks current No. 1 heading into the final round of World Cup qualifying. Yes, Brad Guzan is a more-than-capable backup. But as U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann pointed out recently, circumstances can change quickly, often at the least opportune time.

"If Timmy, God forbid, gets injured in the warm-up," Klinsmann said, the U.S. could find itself one red card away from having to use its third-string keeper in a pivotal game.

Which is why Nick Rimando remains a vital part of Klinsmann's plans heading into the Hex.

Doug McIntyre is a staff writer for ESPN The Magazine. He has covered American and international soccer since 2002.