Positional Breakdown: The Goalkeepers
As the team’s training camp roster begins to become a bit more clear, I’ll be doing breakdowns of the depth and possibilities for each position heading into the 2013 season.
I’ll start where the situation seems clearest: Goalkeepers.
Signed Goalkeepers (2):
Sean Johnson returns for his fourth season in Chicago firmly entrenched as the team’s incumbent starter. Last year the 23-year-old ‘keeper moved into second on the club’s all-time appearance chart for goalkeepers behind only Zach Thornton. Like Big Z began to do more than a decade ago, Johnson has moved into the upper echelon of ‘keepers in MLS and parlayed his play with the Fire to multiple U.S. Men’s National Team call-ups over the last year.
While still young, fans should still feel safe in the fact that Johnson is a seasoned veteran on this Fire squad. With Brazil 2014 just over a year away, a strong campaign for Johnson will at the very least keep his name in the conversation for a World Cup roster spot (should the U.S. qualify). Depending on national team commitments and of course form, Johnson could join Thornton as just the second Fire ‘keeper to appear in 100 regular season matches later this season (he’s currently at 72).
Returning for his second season, Italian goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi will continue to give Frank Klopas a solid back-up option should Johnson be unavailable this season. Tornaghi filled in admirably while Sean was away on U.S. U-23 duty at the beginning of last season, bravely appearing in front of nearly 60,000 fans at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium in his Fire debut.
At 24, Tornaghi also has the ability to keep things competitive with Johnson and with the U.S. unlikely to bring all their starters for the this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, the former Inter Milan ‘keeper could get some game this summer if his counterpart is included in Jurgen Klinsmann’s squad.
Tornaghi doesn’t represent the traditional veteran ‘keeper than Johnson has had behind him in the past (think Jon Conway and Jay Nolly) but given his age and form he’s arguably the strongest backup the team has had in a while.
Interestingly enough, this season marks the first year since 2008 that the Fire have returned two goalkeepers from the year before. That season both Jon Busch and Noble returned to the club after playing understudy to Matt Pickens the previous season.
Unsigned Goalkeepers (2):
Alec Kann and James Belshaw (right) are the final two unsigned goalkeepers remaining in Fire camp and seem likely to be fighting for the third goalkeeper spot on the roster.
Kann is in his second straight preseason trialing with the Fire and comes off a year in which he played understudy with USL-PRO’s Charleston Battery. If his inclusion in last Tuesday’s game against Chivas USA is any indication, Kann seems to have a slight edge over Belshaw heading into the third phase of camp this week.
Fresh out of Duke University, Belshaw has been good enough to get this far as well. If all things are equal though, the fact that Belshaw is English and would count as a second goalkeeper taking up an international spot, could count against him in the end.