Sporting KC goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen retires
Sporting Kansas City goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen announced his
retirement Monday night, two days after he made a pair of dramatic
saves in a penalty kick shootout against Real Salt Lake to secure
his club its first MLS Cup in more than a decade.
Nielsen made the announcement during a title celebration at
”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,” Nielsen said. ”I will remember these years
Nielsen kept Sporting KC tied with Real Salt Lake through
regulation and overtime Saturday night before making two saves in
the penalty kick shootout. Sporting KC eventually prevailed 7-6 in
frigid weather to win its first league championship since the 2000
Nielsen was so overcome with emotion following the game that he
retreated from the club’s locker room to a back room, away from
reporters and TV cameras.
”To the best soccer fans: Since Day 1 they have always been
behind me and I want to thank them for all the support,” Nielsen
said. ”It was the perfect timing, finishing with a great
championship that the entire city deserves.”
Nielsen began his career in England and played the majority of
it in his native Denmark, but said he was at a crossroads in his
career when Sporting KC sought him out several years ago.
He wound up agreeing to a contract with the MLS club, even
though he barely knew where Kansas was on a map, and instantly
became a hit with fans. Nielsen played every minute of Sporting
KC’s last 100 matches, made two All-Star game appearances and was
voted the league’s top goalkeeper a year ago.
It wasn’t just his play that endeared Nielsen to fans, though.
It was his personality.
He became known for stopping his car at local parks when he’d be
driving by and joining in games with random children. Often,
Nielsen would pull kids out of the crowd and have them kick balls
at him as part of his pre-game warm-up. The recent release of his
autobiography, ”Welcome to the Blue Heaven: Don’t Bet Against the
Goalkeeper,” chronicled the way he overcame an addiction to
All of it resonated with Sporting KC fans who nicknamed Nielsen
the ”White Puma,” and who would often show up at games with their
own version of his bleach-blonde hair.
”What an incredible way to end a career,” Sporting Club chief
executive Rob Heineman said in a 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.”
He retires with club records for regular-season games played
(128), games started (128), minutes played (11,497), wins (57),
ties (32), winning percentage (.575) and shutouts (45).
Nielsen’s career goals-against average of 0.99 is the best in
MLS history among goalkeepers with a minimum of 1,000
regular-season minutes played.
”He has been instrumental to the success of this organization
over the last four years,” Sporting KC manager Peter Vermes said.
”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 a true