SANDY, Utah — Despite winning the last two MLS Cup trophies with the LA Galaxy, Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Josh Saunders saw the writing on the wall. He knew it was time for a change.
"You always have times in your career when it's time to move on — when things aren't working out," he said following training Tuesday. "It wasn't a matter of me wanting to leave, but it was almost a necessity. It didn't go the way we wanted it at the end of the year and I'm lucky to be here now."
Real feel the same way, especially right now as regular starter Nick Rimando is playing with the US national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup going on for most of this month.
"All of our players feel very confident that they have Josh behind them," said RSL coach Jason Kreis. "I think they all have played against Josh enough times to know what his talents and his capabilities are. We are very thankful that we have a guy like that to step in when Nick's away."
It was anticipated before the season that Rimando was going to be chosen for US national team duty, both for World Cup qualifying and for the Gold Cup. Rimando has consistently been US coach Jurgen Klinsmann's No. 3 'keeper, and with that a starting job on the Gold Cup team. So while Saunders may have been able to go somewhere else and have a better shot at beating out a player for a starting role, he knew he would get his chances to play.
"You always want to be on a winning team and you always want to be pushed," Saunders said. "Obviously, Nick's been a top goalkeeper in this league for a long time, so you look at it as a challenge. If you want to be the best, you have to compete against the best and train with the best. That's how I looked at it.
"Obviously it's a great honor for him to go with the national team ... Whenever I can come in and contribute to the team, that's been the idea from the start — push and be a good teammate and go from there."
Saunders has started and played in two games so far this year, but he is still searching for his first win in an RSL uniform — he played in a 2-0 loss at Dallas on March 23, and in the 2-2 draw against Philadelphia last week. With the team traveling to Dallas on Saturday, the 32-year-old Oregon native has an extra chip on his shoulder.
"I have a little bit of vengeance. I want to play better than I did the last time in Dallas," he said. "So I'm going to work really hard this week and put in a good effort."