Real Salt Lake’s four-year backup goalkeeper, Jeff Attinella, was selected by Minnesota United in the fourth round of today’s MLS Expansion Draft. That’s obviously not our preference, but it’s probably not time to panic.
Attinella, who has been behind one of MLS’s best goalkeepers in Nick Rimando, has certainly trended toward being a first-choice goalkeeper, but he’s also found minutes somewhat hard to come by. He played only four matches in 2016, owing partly to an elbow injury and partly to Nick Rimando earning fewer call-ups to the United States Men’s National Team.
This does present a good opportunity for Lalo Fernandez, who has been RSL’s third-choice goalkeeper since 2012 — and after earning significant minutes with Real Monarchs over the past two years as their regular starter, he may be ready.
That’s probably the biggest mitigating factor in Attinella’s selection. While we’re out a very capable second-choice goalkeeper, we’re still sitting comfortably with a first-choice Rimando and the potential for Fernandez to move up.
Now, the near-constant rumors around Rimando, most of which saw him moving to Atlanta United (they currently have more goalkeepers than they need, certainly, and they’re rumored to be after Brad Guzan), could come to fruition. If they do, I’ll be honest: I am totally uncomfortable with Fernandez as a starter. Sure, he could be capable, and he could rise to the occasion — but that’s a big if, and it leaves us in a very delicate position. We’d have to bring in two more goalkeepers, and that’s not a fun idea.
What’s next for Real Salt Lake? Certainly, signing another goalkeeper. It’s possible that Minnesota and Real Salt Lake could engage in some trade deal that sees Attinella come back, but it’s unlikely. Could someone like potential-homegrown-player Christian Herrera return from Mexico to sit in a third spot behind Rimando and Fernandez? The idea is appealing to me, but rumors have also seen Herrera — contracted to Real Monarchs — signing a permanent deal at Pachuca, where he’s on loan.
Time will tell on this one, but I’m not ready to panic. Fernandez has years of third-choice under his belt, and he now has plenty of minutes in preparation for a backup spot. This might just be the opportunity he needed.