Through the fire: Real Salt Lake notch historic Texas win as unheralded Jeff Attinella steps up in goal
A couple of new developments stood out in Real Salt Lake's 3-0 win over FC Dallas Saturday night in Frisco, Texas.
First, RSL actually won a game in Texas, something they had never done in any competition during the franchise's nine-year history.
Second, Real's No. 3 goalkeeper Jeff Attinella proved he can really play.
Real's players and coaches were sick of hearing about their “O-fer” in the Lone Star State, and with the win, that line of questioning from media and fans can now be put to bed.
With Nick Rimando posting a win for the US national team against Cuba on Gold Cup duty in Real's home stadium earlier Saturday, Josh Saunders continued to stand in as RSL's starting 'keeper against Dallas. After making a couple of nice saves early, Saunders injured his left knee in the first half. He tried to play on in the second half, but an early goalkick proved too much and Attinella was called upon to make his first appearance for RSL.
The 2012 NASL Best XI standut for the Tampa Bay Rowdies proved he was up to the task.
Showing no jitters, Attinella came on in the 51st minute and immediately made a great play as he burst off his line to smother a run on the right side of the penalty box.
"I really wanted to get that first touch," said the 24-year-old during his postgame television interview. "When I made my college debut, the first shot against me as a goal, and that was not a good way to start. To come out and get that through-ball, get it in my hands – it wasn't the cleanest way to get it – but to get that first touch, and to get first kick out of the way, definitely after that the nerves kind of settled.
“You don't have enough time to think about it, think about nerves or think about the situation. You are just kind of thrown into the fire."
Saunders' injury, described by the club as a sprained left knee LCL, will be reevaluated following an MRI on Monday, so Attinella may be called on again next week when RSL hosts resurgent Sporting Kansas City. If he is, he welcomes the challenge.
"I’m still trying to wrap my head around what just happened," Attinella told reporters. "Josh will get evaluated and we’ll see how he feels during the course of the week. If he feels good to go, I’m sure he’ll be back and do a great job. If my number’s called, I’m going to train hard and be ready."
So the Claret-and-Cobalt leave Dallas with big smiles on their faces and with another milestone – RSL posted their first-ever win in Canada at Toronto two weeks ago – putting everyone on cloud nine.
"I'm pleased. Pleased with what the guys put in. Pleased that the guys continue to believe. Pleased that we get contributions from players off the bench," said RSL coach Jason Kreis in his TV interview after the game. “Another player enters our team tonight, in Jeff Attinella, and comes in and does a fantastic job. He makes two saves to keep us headed in the right direction at the end of the game. So [I'm] just really, really pleased with this group right now. I couldn't be happier.”