CHARLESTON, S.C. – It’s not often that a 23-year-old backup goalkeeper joins a team on trial and has better stories than some of the veterans in camp.
But enter Chicago Fire hopeful Paolo Tornaghi, who’s already wowed some of his potential teammates and the staff with his experiences and composure gained while in the youth system for Inter Milan.
“He’s grown up training with guys like Mario Balotelli and Wesley Sneijder and all those guys,” Fire goalkeeper coach Aron Hyde told MLSsoccer.com on Wednesday. “Anyone you throw at him out here, he’s not really too worried about.”
The Fire appear keen to see what they can get going forward from Tornaghi in a backup role — and even as a potential challenger to de facto starter Sean Johnson. So far the Italian youngster hasn’t disappointed. He made six saves in the Fire’s 1-0 win over the Columbus Crew in the Carolina Challenge Cup at Blackbaud Stadium on Wednesday, and kept the Fire in the game early on as the Crew threatened to get on the board first.
His best moment came in the 26th minute, when he parried a shot from Crew defender Nemanja Vukovic before making a sprawling kick save on a rebound attempt from rookie forward Ethan Finlay.
“We like him, and we’re seriously looking at him,” head coach Frank Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “He’s a young guy and he’s been in a very good environment with Inter. He’s very composed, and he has a ton of upside.”
Tornaghi joined the Fire on trial last month with hopes of a new lease on his soccer life. The small world of soccer agents made it happen, as Tornaghi’s Italian agent connected with the agent for US national team midfielder and Serie A pro Michael Bradley, and the wheels went in motion.
Tornaghi was more than willing to take a chance on MLS instead of stagnating in the reserve system for Inter Milan, and recently found himself pondering where his career was headed.
“In Italy we’re having some problems with the economy of the third teams and the fourth teams, so I had to start thinking about the future,” Tornaghi said. “I figured, why not try? When they told me the possibility was there for me to come here I was very excited.”
Hyde said that if the Fire choose to sign Tornaghi, who grew up playing in the youth ranks for the Italian national team, he could realistically contend for the backup role and potentially battle Johnson for the top spot.
“With a little bit of time he could make a real push,” Hyde said. “He’s a real threat to Jay [Nolly, the No. 2 'keeper] and he’s a challenge to Sean, and that’s what we want. We want all three of them fighting, and whoever gets it done is going to play.”