Sandy • Chris Wingert was glued to the TV. He wasn’t in Kansas City last weekend due to a groin injury, so the Real Salt Lake defender tuned in to watch the much-anticipated MLS Cup final redux. What Wingert saw was 25-year-old backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella have the best outing of his young career.
"I was going crazy," Wingert said.
RSL at PhiladelphiaSaturday, 2 p.m.
TV » Ch. 4
With Nick Rimando out after suffering a knee injury while playing with the U.S. men’s national team in a friendly against Mexico last Wednesday, Attinella was tabbed to command the spot between the posts.
And the second-year RSL goalkeeper was more than up to the task. He kept Sporting Kansas City at bay throughout the evening as the home side continually pressed for a goal. Sporting found several opportunities, including a few point-blank rips, but Attinella was there. In all, the Clearwater, Fla., product had nine saves in the 0-0 draw at Sporting Park.
Going forward, Attinella’s time in goal — anticipated to come in late May through July with Rimando’s probable departure with the U.S. team to Brazil for the World Cup — came sooner than most expected. He was named to the MLS Team of the Week following his standout performance in Week 5 of the season and will most likely get another nod at Philadelphia this Saturday.
"It’s good to get a game out of the way, for sure, because if I would have gone until May without playing, well then it would have been a little bit tougher to step in, I think," Attinella said. "Confidence-wise, it’s good, but all the awards and stuff were cool, but it’s Philly this week, and it’s time to move on and forget about the last game because there’s another 90 minutes on Saturday."
With Rimando expected to miss his second game in a row with a knee injury, it’s Attinella’s time again to prove he can help guide the club through a summertime stretch without Rimando, Kyle Beckerman and Alvaro Saborio. RSL also faces the prospect of U.S. Open Cup matches during the MLS’ break in midseason play during the World Cup group stages.
"When you’re in my position, any time you get a chance to help the team and contribute, you want to do it in a positive manner, so the big takeaway from the weekend was I was happy that I played a part in getting a big point for us down the road this season," Attinella said.
RSL drafted Attinella in the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, but released the University of South Florida keeper before the 2011 season. He went on to play for the NASL’s Tampa Bay Rowdies, winning the league championship in 2012. He was named to the NASL Best XI and finished second in MVP voting. But he was thrust into action in 2013 soon after snagged again by RSL, starting four matches in 2013 when former RSL goalkeeper Josh Saunders suffered a torn ACL.
The young keeper will be called upon when RSL is without several stars and will be hoping to emulate what Rimando has established commanding the back line.
"It’s not easy when we haven’t had any reserve games and things like that to prepare him," said RSL coach Jeff Cassar, a former MLS goalkeeper. "I was proud of [Attinella] that was able to step up when he had to.
"It’s going to have to be that way a lot this year with Nicky going to the World Cup."
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