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Where are they now: Jeff Attinella

After being moved away from Salt Lake in the 2016 expansion draft, we talked with a fan favorite about his time in Portland.

MLS: Portland Timbers at D.C. United Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Jeff Attinella was drafted by Real Salt Lake in the 2011 SuperDraft, but he would be cut in preseason and play his first few seasons as a pro with the USL side Tampa Bay Rowdies.

After signing with RSL again in 2013, Attinella would play just 29 matches over the course of 4 seasons before being left unprotected in the 2016 MLS Expansion Draft. Although he was selected by Minnesota United the plan all along was for Attinella to end up with the Portland Timbers. Attinella has since played 36 matches over the course of his two seasons with Portland.

In his time in Salt Lake, Attinella was known for his banter and positive attitude. Despite being the backup to current RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando for the four years he was here, Attinella has a lot of fans in Salt Lake.

Despite not necessarily getting consistent minutes, in an interview with RSL Soapbox, Attinella says he learned a lot in his time in Salt Lake by watching and questioning Rimando.

“Nick (Rimando) has done it so well for such a long time that I tried to take everything that I could and apply it to my game,” he says.

This veteran connection is a big part of why Attinella was able to take so much away from Salt Lake.

“We were so close as a group — the whole locker room was,” he says when reflecting on his time in Salt Lake City.

He says that his biggest take away from being in Salt Lake was that he tries to “be that type of guy that is welcoming and friendly and nice to everyone that walks into our locker room.”

Following the 2016 Expansion Draft, Attinella found himself with a big RSL rival, the Portland Timbers. He wasn’t alone, with another former RSL man, Nat Borchers, also playing for Portland at the time.

Still, the transition from Salt Lake to Portland was a rough one, Attinella says.

Off the field, Attinella’s wife Kendall had just given birth to their daughter, and they had bought a house when he found out he was going to be leaving RSL. Attinella not only had to learn how to be a father in 2016, but he had to learn a new city, team and lifestyle.

It had to be told

After getting settled in Portland, Attinella came up with the idea to write a series of children's books. His books are mainly focused around big sporting events that are stories that “had to be told.”

The books are geared toward children because they were initially inspired for his own daughter to eventually read and learn to understand Attinella’s love of sports.

As a big sports fan, Attinella wanted a way to teach his own daughter about the sports that he loves and hopefully ignite that same love in his daughter and inspire other people’s children. Attinella says he picked the topics of each story based on how significant those games were to the fanbases involved.

Looking at the topics of Attinella’s books, most of them happened around 2016. He says this is just a coincidence though. The topics of his books were selected for various different reasons and it just so happened a lot of historical matches were played around 2016. Attinella says he wanted to pick games that had significant impact on the fanbases involved.

“[The books] not only retell a memorable moment in a parents life but hopefully it’s something that kids who like sports can really relate to and kids and parents can bond over.”

Although there’s not one about Attinella’s own sport, soccer yet, he says it’s not off the table.

“If a soccer story comes up and it seems like the right idea, we’ll definitely write one in the future,” he says.

Attinella and his father-in-law self publish these books with their publishing company called “It Had to be Told.”

“These are just stories that had to be told,” he says. “If you’re a sports fan of any kind, we just don’t think that these stories should be forgotten and they should be passed down through generations.”

He says that is the premise: He wants to tell the stories that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Portland Timbers

As the 2019 season gets started and preseason camps gear up, Attinella wants to build off of the Timbers 2018 season.

“I think it took a little bit to get everyone on the same page and have everyone come together and buy into everything and all the changes that were happening,” he says. “But once we did we were able to put together a pretty amazing run and we just came up a little bit short.”

Attinella is optimistic for this season and his personal goals.

“Obviously I need to stay healthy and as goalkeeper you need the right bounces and you need things to go your way a little bit,” he says. “I feel like if I can play the way I played last year, if I can do it for an entire season that would put me in a good spot and it would be good for the team.”

After reaching the MLS Cup final in 2018, Attinella and Portland plan to do no less in 2019.

Portland’s fans play a huge role in the success of their team too.

For Attinella, when he first moved to Portland he was excited to “have Timbers Army have my back, as opposed to telling me I’m a dodgy keeper.”

Providence Park is pretty tough place to play at because of the insane atmosphere their fans create. Portland has one of the more unique traditions in the league, their log slicing. Most matches you see Timber Joey cut off slabs of a log and give them to players. Field players get them for goals, Attinella and the other keepers gets theirs for shutouts.

What does Attinella do with all his log slices?

“The memorable ones, the big games, are the ones I hang on to and get the guys to sign.”

The others? He’s keeping a stack by his locker to “see how tall it can get.”