Few players make it back to the team that drafted then cut them, but Jeff Attinella is the exception to the rule.
After being picked by Real Salt Lake in the first round of the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, Attinella didn't sign to a contract (almost definitely because the club didn't offer him one) and went instead to Tampa Bay Rowdies in the NASL, where he made 52 appearances.
Cue 2013: Attinella, on the back of being named to the NASL Best XI and finishing second in league MVP voting, signs with Real Salt Lake, certainly with the knowledge that he'll be playing a backup role to Nick Rimando. Fast forward only slightly, and one Josh Saunders is brought in to act as a backup for Rimando - leaving Attinella as third in line.
But this didn't restrict his work rate, and he never appeared to put his head down. Attinella may not have started at the level some at the team might have expected given his NASL pedigree, but the motivation afforded to him by being third-choice might have been enough to propel him forward.
Attinella got his first start against FC Dallas, coming on for an injured Josh Saunders; in his 39 minutes that day, he made three saves from three shots. A good start, no doubt, but the two matches immediately following didn't show well to his ability. He started against Sporting KC and New York, and both matches were lost late through silly defending. Certainly Attinella played a role in that, primarily when it came to the organizational aspect of a goalkeeper's play, but it few - if any - of the six goals conceded in two matches had much to do with him.
Despite those losses, Attinella looked capable. It is an oddity of the game that a goalkeeper can give up four in a match and still look effective, but so it was. He came into the lineup at a point in which we were struggling defensively, and there can't have been a rougher transition.
Attinella only played in five matches in his first season, which, let's face it, was about what we would have expected from him in the first place. 2014 doesn't promise anything terribly different, but he's behind only Nick Rimando this season. But without a Gold Cup to take our primary goalkeeper away from us (but a World Cup to do so for a brief moment, perhaps), the opportunities won't present themselves quite so cleanly this time around.
Attinella's one for the future, no doubt, but there's plenty of reason to think that he's ready to start today - we just hope he doesn't have to.
Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2013 season and previewing the 2014 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.