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Fire backup Paolo Tornaghi ready for start vs. Chivas USA

Paolo Tornaghi sails toward ball shot wide during Fire’s opener last March. He’ll be goal tonight while No. 1 starter

Paolo Tornaghi sails toward a ball shot wide during the Fire’s opener last March. He’ll be in goal tonight while No. 1 starter Sean Johnson is at World Cup qualifying. | Richard Wolowicz~Getty Images

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Updated: April 25, 2013 7:18AM

When the Fire plays Chivas USA on Sunday at Toyota Park, it will be facing one of Major League Soccer’s most offensive-minded teams. But that might be precisely why it’s the best possible time for backup goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi to get his first start of the season.

The 24-year-old Italian is starting in place of Sean Johnson, who was selected by the U.S. national team for World Cup qualifying.

While switching keepers might ordinarily force a team to adjust tactics, the Fire has done that anyway this week as it prepares for Chivas USA’s unique 3-4-3 formation.

‘‘We are working a lot in a tactical way because we know that Chivas is a little different in the style of game than other MLS teams,’’ Tornaghi said. ‘‘We are working good, and we are ready for Sunday.’’

Tornaghi started the Fire’s season opener last year — a 1-1 tie in Montreal — when Johnson was with the U-23 team in Olympic qualifying. In three MLS starts last season, he allowed three goals and had 14 saves.

He signed with the Fire last offseason as a third goalkeeper. The team also had signed veteran Jay Nolly to be the backup to Johnson, but Tornaghi won the backup job last preseason.

‘‘[Backup goalkeepers] don’t want to be comfortable being No.  2 — they are going to challenge to be No.  1 and have good competition within the team, and I think Paolo has done that,’’ Fire coach Frank Klopas said. ‘‘I know he’s been behind Sean, but he’s been working hard and waiting for the opportunity. So we have all the confidence in him. He’s played well.’’

While Tornaghi has primarily played with the reserves, he was given the opportunity to work with the starters during the beginning of training camp when Johnson was in national team camp. That was beneficial for Fire defenders who knew Tornaghi would end up starting games this season because of Johnson’s national team obligations.

‘‘They both read the game well, and they both do a good job,’’ center back Austin Berry said. ‘‘So I’m not worried about any miscommunication or anything like that [Sunday].’’

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