Saunders to step up in Rimando's absence
SANDY, Utah — Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Josh Saunders knows what it takes to win. He has two MLS Cups to prove as much.
Against FC Dallas this weekend, the veteran will likely be thrust into his first on-field duty of the season with stalwart Nick Rimando away with the US national team.
"I want to get out there with the boys and get a result and put the best effort in that we can," said Saunders following training on Tuesday. "We have a couple of guys gone with international duty, but we have plenty of players to fill in."
The fact that RSL have a backup as capable as Saunders is rare in MLS. After winning the last two MLS Cups and a Supporters' Shield as a starter with the LA Galaxy, Saunders found himself searching for a new opportunity this winter when LA brought in former EPL 'keeper Carlo Cudicini from Tottenham.
"It was an opportunity that provided itself," said Saunders. "I knew some of the coaches here and they said, 'We would be excited to have you.' Anybody that wants you on the team, you want to play for them. That was the opportunity that arose, and I wanted to come here."
Saunders was aware that there were almost certainly going to be opportunities for him to step in while Rimando was away with the US team either during World Cup qualifiers like this weekend, or for the Gold Cup later this summer. But the 6-foot-4 netminder said that was not the main reason he came to Salt Lake. The main reason was competition.
"No. I mean you look at it as you want to be challenged as much as possible," he said. "I want to be here to challenge Nick, and just like Nick is going to challenge me. That's the best thing. You're going to be at your best when everybody holds you responsible to be as good as somebody else."
So is it difficult for a player that has won the last two Cups and was a regular starter for the Galaxy to move into primarily a backup position?
"I play soccer for a living. Is it really that tough?" said Saunders. "I come out here and enjoy what I do everyday. It's not an ego thing. You're not coming here and thinking, 'Oh, I was starting and now I'm a backup.' It's not like that. You are getting to do what you love, which is a privilege. Anybody that is going to complain about that, shouldn't be doing it."
Even if his thought wasn't mainly to fill in while Rimando is away, it gives a nice piece of mind for RSL that he can.
"I think we have to feel extremely good about our situation, as we do in a lot of positions," said coach Jason Kreis of having a backup with Saunders' resume. "… We have no hesitation about playing the next guy, giving him his opportunity."