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Save by Sean Johnson sparks Fire in 2-1 victory over FC Dallas

FC Dallas v Chicago Fire

FC Dallas v Chicago Fire

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Updated: July 3, 2012 9:21AM

After Sean Johnson gave up the goal to El Salvador on March 26 that knocked the United States out of Olympic qualifying, the Fire’s
22-year-old goalkeeper appeared to have lost his mojo.

Since his return from duty with the Olympic team, Johnson had been searching for a dominant performance that again would validate him as one of the top young goalies in the country.

He found one in the Fire’s 2-1 victory Wednesday against FC Dallas at Toyota Park.

With the score tied 1-1, Johnson made a diving save on the ground to deflect FC Dallas forward Blas Perez’s penalty kick in the 51st
minute. His confidence thereafter seemed to find its way through the rest of the Fire squad.

‘‘We needed a save at that point in the game to keep us in it and to turn us around,’’ Johnson said.

‘‘It’s always good to have a big save in a game like that to be able to turn around and get the team going a bit. I thought the second half was definitely better for me.’’

Johnson’s save energized a Fire offense that used a massive push forward to get the go-ahead goal, which came off the foot of midfielder Marco Pappa in the 63rd minute.

FC Dallas goalie Kevin Hartman saved a penalty kick by forward
Sebastian Grazzini that was the
result of a foul Pappa drew in the box. The ball then fell to the feet of Pappa, who one-touched it into
the net.

‘‘In my mind, it was just trying to see their eyes,’’ Pappa said. ‘‘The goalie came and saved the ball, and the ball came to me.

‘‘The best thing for me is I feel good. Because if I am a winner,
everybody is a winner in the locker room.”

For a while, it looked as though there wouldn’t be a stage for Johnson’s and Pappa’s heroics.

FC Dallas struck first when
defender Matt Hedges scored off a corner kick in the 41st minute. An initial header on goal was deflected by Johnson, who needed to dive to make the save. That left the goal open for Hedges, who headed the ball into the open net.

But any concern about momen-
tum quickly was erased when Grazzini used his left foot to score the equalizer from 25 yards out in the 45th minute.

‘‘World-class goal, ones that he can score with his ability,’’ Fire coach Frank Klopas said. ‘‘I thought that the group was positive, but then that kind of lifted us. We went into halftime, we talked a little bit more about strategy in the second half and the guys came out with energy.”

The Fire will conclude a stretch of three games in seven days Saturday against the Columbus Crew.

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