Fire's Tornaghi handles high-pressure debut with aplomb

Paolo Tornaghi and Tyson Wahl clash for a ball

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Paolo Tornaghi could hardly hear anything.

The 23-year-old goalkeeper found out last week he’d start his first MLS game in the Fire’s opener against Montreal, and when he stepped into the goal last Saturday, the roar of 58,912 fans was deafening.

“In the box, you can talk, but after 10 yards, 50 yards, it’s impossible,” Tornaghi told MLSsoccer.com a few days after the match.

WATCH: Tornaghi denies Braun

But although communication wasn’t easy, Tornaghi had no problem performing. The former Inter Milan youth product made five crucial saves, highlighted by a leaping denial of Justin Braun’s 17th-minute shot. His only blemish was a Davy Arnaud header that found its way past his outstretched arms.

There were mistakes, manager Frank Klopas said, but overall Tornaghi played well in the 1-1 tie.

“He had a very good game,” Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “I think the distribution, at times, could have been better. But you’ve got to put it in perspective.”

Klopas could have gone with veteran backup goalkeeper Jay Nolly for the pressure-filled opener – Nolly started 14 games last season for Vancouver – but trusted the young Italian on the big stage.

“He was more ready to step in,” Klopas said. “He’s a young guy with a lot of experience. He’s been in situations like that.”

And although he may be new to MLS, Tornaghi is no rookie.

When he was nine years old, he began playing in Inter Milan’s youth system. In 2003, he earned his first cap for the Italian U-15 national team. Three years later, he began training with Inter Milan’s senior team before embarking on loan stints with lower-division Italian clubs.

Tornaghi returned to train with Inter Milan this winter, 15 years after joining the club’s youth setup. But the club couldn’t find a spot for him, and he decided it was time to move on.

“At the end of last year, I started to get news about the MLS, about the league, the clubs,” Tornaghi said. “I thought it was the right place for me.”

WATCH: Tornaghi parries Martins' effort

Tornaghi battled Alec Kann and Carl Woszczynski for the third goalkeeper spot as a trialist throughout preseason camp. After a few weeks, Klopas decided to sign him.

“He’s energetic, a great kid,” captain Logan Pause told MLSsoccer.com. “Obviously, you see he works incredibly hard to get where he is, where he’s playing games, competing and helping our team.”

Tornaghi has two more games to prove himself before starter Sean Johnson returns from Olympic qualifying duty.

During Saturday’s home opener against Philadelphia, he knows he needs to improve his distribution to allow the Fire to play their most effective style.

“I think that our best soccer is playing on the ground,” Tornaghi said. “When we play it to our feet, we’re maybe the best in the league. It’s important to take the ball quickly and attack.”