Fire goalie Sean Johnson bouncing back big time
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media September 12, 2012 1:00AM
FIRE AT TORONTO FC
The facts: 6 p.m., Ch. 5.2.
March 26 seems long ago to Fire goalie Sean Johnson — not only because he’s played a full MLS season, but because he’s an entirely different player.
That night, Johnson, a backup goalie for the U.S. Olympic team, replaced injured starter Bill Hamid in a game against El Salvador in Nashville, Tenn. In second-half stoppage time, he allowed the goal that knocked the United States out of Olympic qualifying.
Since then, Johnson has not only emerged as one of the elite goalies in MLS, but he also unseated Hamid on the depth chart for the U.S. national team.
Johnson was the third goalie on the roster for the United States’ 2-1 loss to Jamaica in World Cup qualifying Friday in Kingston, behind Tim Howard and Brad Guzan, who play for the Premier League’s Everton and Aston Villa, respectively. Johnson was not kept on to train with the team in advance of Tuesday’s rematch with Jamaica, so he could be available for the Fire’s pivotal game in Toronto on Wednesday.
The game against Toronto FC starts a run of three games in 11 days for the Fire, which could solidify its position as a playoff team. A win would vault the Fire into second place in the Eastern Conference.
“Being back here I think my focus shifts on the team,” Johnson said. “We’ve got eight games coming up that are super important for us and going to have to be sharp and ready to get back at it. So that being said, you work hard in that environment and then your focus shifts to this environment and you can only get called back in when you do well here.”
Johnson always has had the athleticism and technical ability to compete with the best goalies in the world.
What had hampered Johnson, though, have been some mental lapses in his game. At times he has been caught of position and beaten unnecessarily. But this season Johnson’s reform has come as much on the field as it has in the classroom.
He doesn’t expect to be mistake-free. Instead he hopes to make sure those mistakes only happen once.
“It’s more so mental than anything,” Johnson said. “Physically I can do it, athletically I know I’m where I need to be at this point. But mentally just saying sharp and staying focused and staying relaxed and just being able to deal with different situations.”