VANCOUVER — The life of a backup means waiting your turn, and Paolo Tornaghi has done more than his fair share of that with the Vancouver Whitecaps.
The 26-year-old goalkeeper has watched nearly 50 competitive games from the bench since joining the club in February 2014, but was set to finally make his first start last week when the Whitecaps travelled to face FC Edmonton in the opening leg of their Amway Canadian Championship semifinal.
That’s when Mother Nature stepped in.
A snowstorm blanketed the Alberta capital, forcing the match to be postponed until May 20 and pushing Tornaghi’s debut back another week to Wednesday, when Vancouver hosts Edmonton in what is now the first leg of the tie.
While some players might have been disappointed, the easy-going Tornaghi took it in stride.
“I’m just excited to play a game,” said the Italian. “Seven days more is nothing if you see how long I’ve waited. It was unlucky to go there and find out about the bad weather.”
Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson went with academy goalkeeper Marco Carducci in last year’s Canadian Championship, but felt that Tornaghi has earned his chance after backing up David Ousted week in and week out in Major League Soccer.
“I was gutted for (Tornaghi) probably more than anyone because he’s waited patiently,” Robinson said of last week’s postponement. “But he’ll still get his two games, just on hold for a week.”
The Whitecaps have never hoisted the Voyageurs Cup and the winner of their two-leg, total-goals tie with Edmonton will face either Toronto FC or the Montreal Impact in the national final with a spot in the 2016-17 CONCACAF Champions League on the line.
Edmonton plays in the second-tier NASL, but the Whitecaps are wary of a team that has an ability to score in bunches, including a 6-2 aggregate victory over the Ottawa Fury in the last round of the competition.
“They’re going to come and fight and come and play. We have to be ready for that,” said veteran Whitecaps striker Robert Earnshaw. “You see a lot of upsets (happen) because sometimes the mentality on the day is not there or sometimes you maybe underestimate people, but we can’t underestimate this team.”
Robinson said last week he would make a number of changes to his starting 11 from the one that usually takes the field in MLS. But with the first leg now at home, he added the makeup and approach will be slightly different from the one that would have taken the field in Edmonton.
Apart from Tornaghi and Earnshaw, look for a number of younger players to get a run out — including midfielder Kianz Froese and defenders Christian Dean and Tim Parker — as Vancouver looks to grab the advantage heading into the second leg.
“We have to play our game,” said Tornaghi. “It doesn’t matter if we are here or away. We have to take as much as we can from this game.”
A favourite amongst his teammates for his upbeat attitude in training and unwavering support in the locker-room, Tornaghi said he’s looking forward to feeling some butterflies in his first action since the 2013 season when he was a member of the Chicago Fire.
“As a goalie I like to be a little nervous, have a little tension,” he said. “I think it’s something to get you up for the game.”
A game that, for him, has been a long time coming.
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Joshua Clipperton, The Canadian Press