Paolo Tornaghi
USA Today Sports Images

Tornaghi ready to step in for Johnson as Fire look for first win Sunday

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- As we’ve seen through the first few weeks of the MLS season, having one of the United States up-and-coming goalkeepers on your roster has its benefits. It can also have its disadvantages when the national team comes calling.

That’s the case this week as Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson is in camp with the U.S. Men’s National Team preparing for important World Cup qualifying matches against Costa Rica and away to Mexico.

READ: Sean Johnson called for U.S. qualifiers

The call-up means the Fire will look once again to Italian backstop Paolo Tornaghi for Sunday’s match against Chivas USA.

“We’re very happy for Sean,” Tornaghi told “It's also positive moment for me because after all the training and work in preseason, I have a chance to go on the field in a regular game and help the team with my saves.

“I’m very excited for this week and the game on Sunday.”

It’s not the first time the 24-year-old Italian has filled in for Johnson.

After coming in as a trialist in preseason last year, the Inter Milan youth product usurped presumed backup Jay Nolly to start the first three matches of the season while Johnson was away for U.S. Olympic qualifying.

Tornaghi had a strong debut performance, turning in five saves in front of nearly 60,000 fans in a 1-1 draw at Montreal’s Olympic Stadium. The next week he was named Man of the Match after earning a shutout in a 1-0 win against Philadelphia.

“You look at last year and he stepped in and did quite well,” said Fire goalkeeping coach Aron Hyde. “I think other MLS teams would look around and take Paolo potentially as a starter.

“We have good competition between Paolo and Sean and they both need that. They both need to be striving to play. In the goalkeeping department we’ve done a good job. I don’t see a problem with transition and for me I’m not worried who plays, I have faith in both of them.”

With a few more U.S. qualifiers clashing with Fire games this year as well as the CONCACAF Gold Cup looming this summer, its likely Tornaghi will be called on to step in for Johnson intermittently throughout the season.

READ: Fire sign goalkeeper Alec Kann

It’s a role he’s become accustomed to.

“Sean is coming up in the U.S. system and doing well. I have to understand in my position -- you don’t have a lot of minutes to play so I think it’s important in every training to remind yourself in any minute that you could be called onto the field. I’m always ready to step in.”

Tornaghi steps into a team that’s gone 0-2-1 through its first three games of 2013 and knows the importance of taking three points at home Sunday afternoon.

“We want to win this game,” he said. “We’re a little frustrated for the first part of the season. We want to step on the field and win for our fans.

“We want to celebrate three points after the game with them.”