Photo by Bill Barrett/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
Jimmy Nielsen has strapped on his goalkeeper gloves for the last time.
Two days after helping Sporting Kansas City lift the 2013 MLS Cup by beating Real Salt Lake on penalty kicks, Nielsen announced his retirement from professional soccer on Monday evening. The Danish netminder, 36, ends a 19-year career that saw him play in a number of countries and win several accolades, including the 2012 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year award and an MLS Best XI selection that same season.
“I want to thank the ownership group, my teammates, my coaches and the entire organization for the opportunity to have four of the best years of my life, not only mine but my family as well here in Kansas City,” said Nielsen, who joined in Sporting KC in 2010, via a released statement. “I will remember these years forever. To the best soccer fans: since day one they have always been behind me and I want to thank them for all the support. I made the final decision to retire today and to end this part of my life and it was the perfect timing, finishing with a great championship that the entire city deserves.
“Finally, I would like to thank my wife and two daughters. I know it is not easy to be a soccer family, but they are always so supportive. Now is the right time to start a new chapter in our lives. I have spent 30 years of my life in soccer and I am definitely going to work the next 30 years in soccer as well in some capacity. I will miss you all, but hopefully will see you soon.”
Nicknamed the White Puma, Nielsen holds the all-time Sporting regular season goalkeeping records for games played and started (both 128), minutes played (11,497), wins (57), ties (32), winning percentage (.575) and shutouts (45). His 0.99 career goals against average is also the best in MLS history among goalkeepers with a minimum of 1,000 regular season minutes played.
Prior to joining Sporting KC, Nielsen played for Millwall, Aalborg BK, Leicester City and Vejle. He won the 1998-99 Danish Superliga championship.
“What an incredible way to end a career,” said Sporting club CEO Robb Heineman in the same statement. “Jimmy Nielsen is so important to this organization on and off the field and we look forward to the next phase of our relationship. We thank him for all he has done for the organization, the city and the fans.”
“It’s with a heavy heart that I see Jimmy retiring from not only the game, but more importantly our team,” added Sporting Kansas City head coach Peter Vermes. “He has been instrumental to the success of this organization over the last four years, and as much as I’m sad to see him go, I am delighted that he leaves the game as a champion based on the fact that he is true winner.”
Nielsen made two saves in the MLS Cup Final before helping Sporting KC outlast RSL, 7-6, in a 10-round penalty shootout in which he stymied Sebastien Velasquez on a potential game-winning shot.
What do you think of Nielsen’s decision to retire? Think Sporting KC will be able to successfully replace him next season? Do you have a favorite Nielsen moment or save?
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