With Nick Rimando playing for the U.S. Men's National Team, Josh Saunders out with a season-ending knee injury, rookie Jeff Attinella has taken over the starting job.
Attinella was thrown right into the fire Saturday night in the second half at FC Dallas in what was his MLS debut.
"It was a situation where you don't have much time to think," Attinella said. "But once you get that first touch, you relax and your instincts kind of take over."
Attinella came up with a couple of huge saves in RSL's 3-0 victory to help extend the team's unbeaten streak to 11. He said he probably couldn't have done it without the support of his teammates.
"The confidence that came from the team and the coaching staff really put me at ease to be honest," Attinella said. "Especially after I made that save, the reaction really made me feel like they were comfortable with me back there."
"I just said to Jeff, 'You're ready,'" said head coach Jason Kreis. "'You've shown for a very long time that you're ready. You've gotten your games on loan down in Tampa and done very well there, and so you're ready.' He did very well, and it's awesome to see yet another player contribute for us in a very meaningful fashion."
"You feel terrible for Josh," said defender Ned Grabavoy, who scored a goal against Dallas. "But Jeff went in, kept his calm and made some huge saves."
Attinella was smiling from ear to ear after the game, knowing that he helped RSL win its first game ever in the state of Texas.
"I was just happy to get it over with to be honest," he said. "We went out there with a 1-0 lead in a place we'd never won, and to come out and still be on top, I was happy to get that one out of the way."
"Playing Dallas, with the heat and our record down there, it felt like the world was against us," said defender Nat Borchers. "I think Jeff really helped us see things through and stepped up big time."
While Attinella, 24, was an unknown entity for most RSL fans, he was considered to be a prized signing in December of 2012.
"Keep in mind, Jeff Attinella was voted the best goalkeeper in the minors last year," said general manager Garth Lagerwey. "He finished second overall in the MVP voting in the [NASL]. So this is not a guy who is unproven and untested."
With Rimando out for another two games with Team USA and Saunders out for the entire season, Attinella is the RSL goalkeeper of the immediate future. He'll face another tough test in his first MLS start this Saturday against the top team in the Eastern Conference, Sporting Kansas City.
"Ya, thanks for reminding me," Attinella said with a smile. "We have a good hot streak going that started with Nick and continued with Josh, so hopefully it can keep going with me."
"Sometimes its easier to come into games when you don't have a lot of time to think about it," added Kreis. "Now he's got an entire week to think about this match at home and what he needs to do to help us win."
Real Salt Lake and Sporting Kansas City will play Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. at Rio Tinto Stadium. The game will be televised on CW30.