Sandy • Jeff Attinella hardly had time to consider his situation.
With Real Salt Lake’s starting goalkeeper, Nick Rimando, off with the U.S. team, and second-string goalie Josh Saunders writhing on the ground, clutching his knee Saturday night, instinct kicked in for Attinella as he played most of the second half, making a number of key saves to help RSL shut out FC Dallas.
Rimando will again be gone and an MRI revealed Saunders suffered a season-ending ACL tear, leaving Salt Lake again in Attinella’s hands this weekend.
“Now he’s got an entire week to think about this match,” coach Jason Kreis said.
The third-string keeper will be tasked with trying to shut down Graham Zusi, Kei Kamara, Benny Feilhaber, Claudio Bieler and the rest of Sporting Kansas City, the top team in the East, on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium.
“It’s definitely a lot different having time to think about it,” Attinella said. “I’m trying to do my best just to keep calm.”
Attinella, an RSL draft pick two years ago, was the top goalkeeper in the minor leagues last year, helping the Tampa Bay Rowdies win the NASL championship.
The title game went into overtime and then to penalty kicks with Attinella making three PK stops to secure the victory.
He signed with Salt Lake this offseason, as the apparent backup to Rimando.
But when Saunders, a starting goalkeeper on the last two MLS Cup winning teams, became available, RSL snatched him up, pushing Attinella down the depth chart.
“At first it was a setback,” Attinella said. “But once I started training with Nick and Josh together and [goalkeeper coach Jeff Cassar] and even [fourth-string goalie Lalo Fernandez], I realized I’m going to get a lot better training with these guys. … It turned out to be a good situation.”
If Attinella had been called on to play early in the season, Kreis said, the 24-year-old Southern Florida product would not been prepared. Attinella needed time to adjust to the speed of the MLS game and the quality of the forwards.
A monthlong loan to the Fort Lauderdale Strikers in May gave Attinella a chance to see game action again, and to impress his RSL coaches.
So when Saunders went down with an injury last week, Kreis was confident.
“You’re ready,” the RSL coach told Attinella as he entered the game.
Sporting K.C.at RSL
P Saturday, 8 p.m.
TV • CW30