SANDY— Josh Saunders isn't the villain anymore.
The former Los Angeles Galaxy 'keeper traded in his spacesuit for a Real Salt Lake uniform earlier this year, and he has a pretty simple game plan for winning over the hearts of the RSL faithful.
"Put the same results I had in L.A. out on the field here for Salt Lake, and try to win them over that way," said Saunders following Wednesday's training session at America First Field. "Just be a good player for them, and be a role model for the kids."
Saunders will likely get the start for RSL at FC Dallas Stadium this Saturday, with usual starter Nick Rimando on U.S. Men's National Team duty.
It will mark Saunders' first start with his new club.
"Any time you get a chance to get on the field it's always a positive, and you're always excited to get out there and play," said Saunders.
Because Saunders has transitioned so smoothly to his new club, his acquisition by RSL has largely gone unnoticed. A player with a resume like Saunders — two consecutive MLS Cups and a Supporters Shield— it seemed like a no-brainer for management to pick up a proven backup for Rimando.
"We're very fortunate that we have a guy with two championships under his belt, that when Nick's not here we can plug him in," said coach Jason Kreis, who was hopeful that it wouldn't be the only start for Saunders this season.
"We're fortunate to have two extremely good, experienced, mature, quality goalkeepers. Hopefully we'll be able to take advantage of that — not on just this occasion, but on several occasions this year," said Kreis.
With international call-ups plucking recent starters Tony Beltran and Abdoulie Mansally off the RSL backline, it should be an interesting first go for Saunders. For the backup 'keeper, it's just part of playing for a talented team.
"You're always going to have call-ups, especially if you play for a good team. We have a lot of good players on this team, and a lot of guys who get the honor of playing for their countries," said Saunders. "We have good players to step in and play their position."
Luckily for RSL, Nat Borchers is coming off a solid week and a half of training, which included logging 70 minutes in the reserve match this past weekend.
Add that good news to the stellar play of recent starters Chris Schuler and Kwame Watson-Siriboe, and you get a solid defense that could make Saunders' job a lot easier.
"I think that we know what we're going to get, which should be a pretty strong performance" said Kreis, referring to Saunders.