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Player Profiles, #10: Jeff Attinella continues improvement, steps into more prominent role

Jeff Attinella continued his development as a long-term prospect at Real Salt Lake, performing ably in the absence of Nick Rimando. We continue our player profiles today with Attinella, who ranks 10th.

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Jeff Attinella has been part of the Real Salt Lake family for longer than it seems. In the 2011 MLS Supplemental Draft, the Claret-and-Cobalt picked up Attinella's rights. Drafted 14th overall, Attinella trained with the club before being released in order to gain valuable experience with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, known then as FC Tampa Bay, of the NASL.

So for the following two years, the Clearwater, Fla. native made a name for himself in the lower division. During his professional debut season, Attinella tallied five clean sheets in 20 appearances. Attinella was also a key figure in the Rowdies' early season rebound to finish 3rd in the league table after only winning only two of their first ten matches.

In his second year with the Rowdies, Attinella dethroned Tampa Bay's first choice goalkeeper Daryl Sattler and led Tampa Bay to their 2012 NASL Championship. Attinella played all 32 regular season matches for the Rowdies where he registered 11 shutouts and a 1.07 goals against average. He went on to receive five Defensive Player of the Week nods and the NASL Player of the Month award for October. Attinella's breakout season saw him named to the NASL Best XI and come in second in the NASL MVP voting, finishing just a few votes behind former RSL forward Pablo Campos.

After gaining more experience than most goalkeepers at his age, Attinella returned to the Claret-and-Cobalt in December 2012. Starting the season as RSL's third choice net-minder, Attinella stepped up when RSL's second choice goalkeeper, Josh Saunders, went down injured in the 51st minute of RSL's July 13 win over FC Dallas. Attinella came up with several huge saves to help RSL secure their first ever win in Texas and the club's 100th MLS regular season win. Following Saunders' season-ending injury and Nick Rimando's periodic international call-ups, Attinella went on to make four more appearances and secure his first and only MLS shutout during the 2013 season.

His performances during the previous season helped Attinella secure the second choice goalkeeper role for the Claret-and-Cobalt in 2014. Filling in for Rimando while he was with the US Men's National Team in Brazil, Attinella collected two Save of the Week awards while leading RSL to three clean sheets. Of the ten matches he played, Attinella managed to come out of every match with at least one physics-defying save.

Sitting behind the Wall of the Wasatch can be imposing on any young player. Attinella steps up time and time again when his name is called but the world class skills of Nick Rimando are undeniable and can be both a gift and a curse for the second choice keeper on the bench. Despite having a great instructor and teacher during practice, not starting many matches can be frustrating, but Jeff Attinella has stepped up big-time when his name is called.

With some of the league's best goalkeepers at his disposal, it should be no surprise that Jeff Cassar used to be RSL's goalkeeping coach before he took the job at the helm of the coaching staff. Jeff Attinella is just another prodigy that Real Salt Lake has a way of producing. Whether it is the mountain air or something in the water, the Claret-and-Cobalt find and field some of the best net-minders in the league and Attinella is no exception. While not given the title yet, I could definitely see Jeff Attinella as the next Wall of the Wasatch.

Editor's note: This is part of a series of player profiles recapping the 2014 season and previewing the 2015 season. Player ratings were compiled via a vote by RSL Soapbox writers. Statistics are via mlssoccer.com.