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MLS goalkeeper moonlights as children’s book author

SOCCER: AUG 18 MLS - Portland Timbers at Sporting Kansas City

KANSAS CITY, KS - AUGUST 18: Portland Timbers goalkeeper Jeff Attinella (1) in the second half of an MLS match between the Portland Timbers and Sporting Kansas City on August 18, 2018 at Children’s Mercy Park in Kansas City, KS. Sporting KC won 3-0. (Photo by Scott Winters/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

PORTLAND, Ore. -- Jeff Attinella is unique in that he’s the only MLS goalkeeper who can also say he’s a children’s book author, a side job that has helped earn him the nickname “Dadtinella” from the Portland Timbers faithful.

He’s already written five books for kids, and has even launched a publishing company.

“I had the idea to write these books because I just love storytelling, in all forms,” he said. “It’s inspiring when people figure out a way to tell a story in their own unique way, or when people tell the story about how they got where they are -- I just love storytelling.”

While Major League Soccer is on hold because of the coronavirus pandemic, Attinella has been embracing his super dad role, in a major way. He and wife Kendall recently welcomed a son to their family.

Attinella’s foray into writing came shortly after the birth of his first child, daughter Remy Rose, in 2016. An avid sports fan, he started thinking up a Dr. Seuss-style story about the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series.

“I was just fooling around on my iPhone in the notes section and came up with a nursery rhyme for my favorite sports team,” he said.

He showed his father-in-law his work and together the family founded a publishing company, It Had To Be Told. The end result was Attinella’s first book, “The Curse Ends: The Story of the 2016 Chicago Cubs.”

Since then, he’s added four more books: “Cleveland Wins a Championship: The story of the 2016 Cavaliers,” “Greatest Ever: The Story of a Coach, a Quarterback and a Comeback,” and “The Great Space Race: The Story of How America Put a Man on the Moon.” His latest is, “Roll Crimson Roll: The Story of College Football’s Greatest Dynasty.”

Attinella often takes his stories on the road to Portland schools. During social distancing for the coronavirus, he’s offering free downloads for parents who are suddenly homeschooling.

“I just thought that by making these books available to families - their kids might not be in school, or their families are really missing sports -hopefully it’s a good way to create something a little bit different, maybe spark up a conversation about their favorite sports moments or just give kids without school and kids without sports something to look to.”

Attinella, 30, came to the Timbers in 2017 and has made 46 appearances with the team. But last year his season ended early when he had surgery on his right shoulder. Steve Clark took over in goal in the meantime.

Recovery from surgery complete, Attinella was looking forward to getting back on the field this season. The Timbers had played just two games when the season was suspended by the league on March 12.

During the uncertainty that has followed, Attinella’s family enjoyed at least one bright spot: Connor Curtiss was born.

“We actually ended up having a very good experience, all things considered. But the worry and fear leading up to it was definitely real. That was tough to deal with, just a lot of the unknowns,” Attinella said. “You’re always scared when you’re having a newborn. But this was a very different type of scare.”

Attinella is not the first soccer player to venture into the children’s book market. Mia Hamm wrote “Winners Never Quit,” and Alex Morgan has a whole series of books called The Kicks. David Beckham even ventured into the Young Adult space with “Charlie Barker and the Secret of the Deep Dark Woods.”

Attinella’s focus for now is on entertaining his 3-year-old daughter while also remaining in isolation with a newborn. MLS has asked players to shelter in market until at least April 24. The targeted re-start date for the league is May 10, although that seems unrealistic at this point.

As for the future of his blossoming career as an author, Attinella is thinking big.

“Maybe it will happen when I’m done playing, maybe it’ll happen when I’m still playing, but my ultimate goal for the books is to have one for every sports team,” he said. “I just think that every fan base deserves something like this where they could pass the story down from generation to generation, giving parents and kids a way to share their passion for sports.”