Johnson could be go-to goalie in Klinsmann’s Gold Cup plan
BY SETH GRUEN For Sun-Times Media March 5, 2013 11:03PM
When U.S. Soccer named Jurgen Klinsmann its men’s national team coach, the primary goal was to qualify for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
But with July’s CONCACAF Gold Cup quickly approaching, Klinsmann has another matter to mull over.
The United States is hosting the tournament in a number of major cities, including Chicago. According to widespread reports, Soldier Field is expected to be announced as the host of the tournament’s final in a news conference next Wednesday.
Traditionally the United States plays some of its younger players in the tournament in lieu of national team members playing abroad. However, U.S. Soccer CEO and Secretary General Dan Flynn said that tradition will not dictate what Klinsmann and his staff elect to do.
Flynn was the keynote speaker at the Fire’s annual Season Kickoff Luncheon on Tuesday.
“The Gold Cup is our confederation’s highest competition,” Flynn said. “So we’ve got to respect it. At the same time, when you look at the FIFA calendar today, there’s a limited number of dates — particularly the way it breaks out with the clubs. So the Gold Cup poses different kinds of opportunities to the coaching staff. Do I go with the very veteran team? Or do I go with the younger team?”
Should Klinsmann elect to play the youngsters from the national team pool, Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson should get his first taste of international competition with the senior team.
Johnson has been listed as the third goalie on Klinsmann’s depth chart, behind starter Tim Howard and backup Brad Guzan. Howard and Guzan play in the Premier League, making Johnson the favorite to earn the opportunity.
“You always get excited to play for your country and the Gold Cup is a big tournament,” Johnson said. “It should be my first senior team tournament. So [I’m] looking forward to a big year with U.S. Soccer.”
Klinsmann’s two-year anniversary with U.S. Soccer is coming up in July, and Johnson says the transition to has been smooth.
Johnson, 23, made his national team debut under Bob Bradley, and has emerged as a top American goalie under Klinsmann. He began his international career playing for the U.S. U-20 team.
“At this level playing with a club team and then playing with a national team, it’s not difficult to make the adjustment [to a new coach],” Johnson said. “The game really is simplified to the basics when it comes to goalkeeping. I think if a coach wants to play quicker out of the back or be more direct, it’s real easy to make those adjustments.”