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SANDY — To earn a draw last weekend in the stadium where Real Salt Lake dropped the 2013 Major League Soccer Cup final, the visitors from Utah needed every one of backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella’s nine saves.
And Attinella will almost certainly fill in for Nick Rimando for a second straight week against the Philadelphia Union Saturday, which would be his sixth career start in his second MLS campaign.
The 2011 14th overall draft pick of the Claret-and-Cobalt made a unique path to becoming RSL’s current backstop. After going unsigned following the draft, he starred for the Tampa Bay Rowdies of the National American Soccer League in 52 appearances.
He was named to the NASL best XI in 2012 upon helping his club capture the championship, and was signed by RSL in December of the same year. With Josh Saunders out for the season in 2013, Attinella took over the as the No. 2 keeper.
Rimando’s Gold Cup duty gave Attinella an increase in playing time, and Jurgen Klinsmann has made Rimando, the RSL No. 1, a regular component of his U.S. men’s national team rosters.
Attinella, along with other reserves thrust into Jeff Cassar’s starting unit because of injury, now faces the tasks of replacing — temporarily and during World Cup training next month — the man dubbed “the Wall of the Wastach.”
Cassar has to be encouraged, though, not only by of Attinella’s spectacular first time this year substituting for RSL’s all-time saves leader, but as a result of the returns of defensive stalwart Chris Wingert and the always creative Sebastian Velasquez aiding in the attack.
Personnel used by both teams on the pitch will be dramatically different than last season’s 2-2 draw at Rio Tinto Stadium.
France Ligue 1 transplant Vincent Noguiera and the USMNT’s Maurice Edu bring new dimensions to the Union midfield, which also added Argentine Cristian Maidana, and they seem to be gelling well together, combining for two goals in their last two games.
The Union (1-1-3) got five saves from goalkeeper Zac MacMath to escape Chicago with a point in a 2-2 tie last weekend.
RSL will be without Joao Plata, who’s still tied for the league lead with seven shots on goal despite missing the last two games, Luis Gil and Tony Beltran.
Jordan Allen and Aaron Maund should be available, as they fully trained this week. Plata has progressed to some individual drills, while Robbie Findley may start training as early as next week.
Kickoff is slated for 2 p.m. MDT at PPL Park in Philadelphia.