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Real Salt Lake 2014: Great goalkeeping from backup earns a draw vs Sporting KC

Two days before Real Salt Lake was set to take the field at Sporting KC it learned that goalkeeper Nick Rimando -- fresh from his U.S. national team outing vs. Mexico -- was hobbled.

Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Jeff Attinella.
Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Jeff Attinella. Photo by Norm Hall/Getty Images

The club made the decision to sit Rimando vs. Sporting KC on Saturday, April 5 -- as well as defender Tony Beltran who also came back from his national team appearance with a little injury. Add defender Chris Wingert to the list of walking wounded and well, yeah, you get the idea.

Using a patchwork defense mattered little as backup goalkeeper Jeff Attinella stepped in for Rimando -- and RSL got a 0-0 draw against its MLS Cup nemesis.

“It was fantastic. He commanded his box. We have a ton of confidence in Jeff and he has been training extremely well this year, playing extremely well,“ RSL head coach Jeff Cassar said in his post-game press conference. “We talked earlier in the week about opportunities and taking your opportunities and running with them. Jeff did that tonight.”

Attinella, who had a whopping nine saves Saturday night in a raucous Sporting Park, saved his best for the 11th minute when he dived to his left, stopping a 1-on-1 opportunity against KC forward -- and former teammate and friend -- Dom Dwyer.

Lest you thought Attinella’s heroics were over, he was forced to make a flying save in the 34th off of a Benny Feilhaber rocket that was headed for the upper 90.

And when Attinella couldn’t be there to make the save, in came RSL veteran defender Nat Borchers to make a sliding kick save in the 63rd minute to preserve the scoreless draw and a crucial road point.

“I was hanging out with Nick [Rimando] on Thursday night and he’s always giving me advice. It’s just a simple, ‘you got this and stay confident.’ That’s all the advice I needed really,” Attinella said after the game. “During trainings, he’s always helping me and I learn a lot from him as well.”

In all, it was an ugly game for RSL in which it got out-possessed 56 to 43 percent and had just three shots on goal -- unheard of numbers until you consider the pitch at Sporting Park was watered before the game, at halftime and basically, every chance the groundskeepers were given.

So given the circumstances, you have to think RSL is happy going home with a single point in the standings where it remains undefeated at 2-0-3 with a road game at Philadelphia later this week.