Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Rowdies' Jeff Attinella hopes to bring title home to Tampa Bay

ST. PETERSBURG — When Jeff Attinella starred in goal for Countryside High, he helped lead the Cougars to a state championship in 2006.

After four years as the goalkeeper at USF — three as a starter — Attinella guided the Bulls to four consecutive appearances in the NCAA Tournament while earning first-team All-America status as a junior.

In his second professional season with the Tampa Bay Rowdies, Attinella was selected to the NASL Best XI all-star team and placed second in league MVP voting.

And tonight, Attinella starts in goal for the Rowdies as they go for a second NASL Soccer Bowl trophy to place alongside the one the original team won in 1975 in its inaugural season.

Wherever Attinella goes, it seems, success follows quickly.

Thing is, he hasn't had to go very far to find success.

"To be able to say that everything that I've gotten and everything that has happened for me has happened in (Tampa Bay) has just been great," said Attinella, who also played as a youth with the Clearwater Chargers and credits that team's goalkeepers coach, former Rowdie Kevin Clinton, for his success.

Attinella is as local as a local product can get. Every significant soccer moment in the 24-year-old Clearwater native's career has come while wearing the jersey of a Tampa Bay area team.

He's also a proud supporter of the area's other pro franchises. A self-proclaimed diehard Rays fan, Attinella has a hidden tattoo on the inside of his lower lip to prove it, the result of a middle school pact with his brother to get ink if the team made the World Series.

Attinella has held season tickets for the Rays, Buccaneers and Lightning. He watched from the Tropicana Field stands as Evan Longoria homered twice in the 2008 AL Division Series against Chicago. He was there a couple of weeks later, too, going delirious (and perhaps regretting that earlier bet) when the Rays won the pennant by beating Boston in Game 7 of the ALCS.

Now, Attinella gets to experience the other side of that fandom.

"We definitely have an uphill battle but to give people that type of memory and give myself a memory and something this (area) will never forget and say that I was an actual physical part of it, not just in the stands, would be huge," he said. "It was my goal when I signed here to win a championship and win a championship in Tampa. Hopefully I can do my part … and the boys can get it done."

Last year, Attinella was forced into a starting role four games into his rookie season after incumbent Daryl Sattler sustained a season-ending knee injury. That could have derailed the Rowdies' season; instead Attinella blossomed, recording five shutouts and a league-high 128 saves to lead the Rowdies to a third-place finish.

"I know in preseason, (coach) Ricky (Hill) kind of looked at it like we have two starting goalkeepers," Rowdies owner and president Andrew Nestor said. "When Daryl went down, we felt pretty confident that Jeff would do well, and, thankfully, he followed through on that. … (A quality goalkeeper) is not easy to find once the season has started."

In his second pro season, Attinella has edged Sattler, now playing for San Antonio, for the league's top keeper distinction. He recorded 11 clean sheets in league action while playing every minute for the Rowdies.

"He's been awesome for us," defender and team captain Frankie Sanfilippo said. "You can definitely tell from last year to this year he's made a huge difference."

The Rowdies must overcome a two-goal deficit in tonight's second leg of the NASL final after a 2-0 loss at Minnesota in last Saturday's first leg. Attinella, who signed a two-year deal before the 2011 season, will no longer be under contract after the match. The Rowdies' front office and coaching staff have expressed a strong desire to hold onto him.

The team — and the Tampa Bay area — might no longer be big enough, though, to contain Attinella.

"If I'm awarded the opportunity (to move up) at the end of the season, it is going to be bittersweet because I love it here," Attinella said. "This is where I'm from. This is where I live."

. Tonight

NASL final

Game 2: Rowdies vs. Minnesota

When/where: 7:30; Al Lang Field, St. Petersburg

Watch online:

Notes: Minnesota won the first match 2-0. Total goals in the two matches will decide the series. If total goals are equal after regulation, there will be two 15-minute overtimes, followed if needed by a penalty shootout. … Rowdies coach Ricky Hill said there was a "50-50 chance" star defender Takuya Yamada would be available. Yamada is recovering from a knee injury (strained MCL) suffered two weeks ago against Carolina in the semifinal round and was unable to play in the first leg of the final. The 38-year-old has been more involved in practice this week, Hill said.

Rowdies' Jeff Attinella hopes to bring title home to Tampa Bay 10/26/12 [Last modified: Friday, October 26, 2012 11:44pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Bucs' O.J. Howard ends big day with BP, first pitch for Rays


    Bucs tight end O.J. Howard is known for his athleticism at 6-foot-6, 251-pounds. As an outfielder, he took his Autuaga Academy High School baseball team to the state tournament in Alabama as a junior.

    On Monday, after a little instruction from Steven Souza, Jr., the left-handed hitting Howard started making …

  2. Arm problems in the past, USF rides pitching into AAC baseball tournament


    TAMPA — By his second relief inning in last year's season opener, USF right-hander Ryan Valdes had lost the fizz on his fastball.

    USF senior right-hander Ryan Valdes, an Alonso High alumnus, is one of three prominent Bulls pitchers flourishing after undergoing Tommy John surgery last year. [USF Athletics]
  3. Ryan Fitzpatrick likes Bucs weapons, believes he's a good fit


    Ryan Fitzpatrick’s experience playing for six other NFL teams is what made him attractive to the Bucs as a backup to starter Jameis Winston. But if he has to play, the former Jets quarterback is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.

    Ryan Fitzpatrick is happy about all the weapons on Tampa Bay’s offense.
  4. For starters: Rays vs. Angels and Trout, with Odorizzi on mound


    After losing Sunday's game but winning a third straight series, the Rays open a four-game series tonight against the Angels and Mike Trout.

    RHP Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays, RHP J.C. Ramirez for the Angels.

    Evan Longoria is getting a DH day, so the Rays have rookie Daniel …

    Jake Odorizzi will be on the mound for the Rays.
  5. Lightning's Swedes live their dream in Worlds


    You could see it in his face.

    Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman screamed as he hoisted the World Championship trophy Sunday afternoon in Cologne, Germany, and it looked like an exhale that was years in the making. Stralman kissed the forehead of Swedish teammate Joel Lundqvist, the joy unmistakable.

    Victor Hedman of Sweden celebrate with his teammates after scoring the opening goal in the gold-medal game against Canada.