New York, N.Y – After a roller coaster ride of an offseason in which the Georgia-born goalkeeper was briefly a member of Atlanta United FC, Sean Johnson finally landed with New York City FC, ending his days with the Chicago Fire.
The 27-year-old then emerged from a pre-season competition with 24-year-old Manchester City Academy product Eirik Johansen to start NYCFC’s season opener, a 1-0 road loss to Orlando City. Johnson largely escaped blame for Cyle Larin’s back post headed goal and while he was not called upon to make a save, Johnson was solid with his distribution.
NYC coach Patrick Vieira is adamant that his team play the ball out the back, rather than boot it up the pitch and for Vieira that philosophy starts with his goalkeeper.
Johnson hasn’t been known for his foot skills thus far in his career but the former Fire man sounded confident in that aspect of his game when I put it to him Thursday at the New York City FC Media Day at midtown Manhattan hotel.
Taking the “all publicity is good publicity,” approach, Johnson earned a laugh saying, “I guess it’s good that people talk good or bad because it means they’re watching,” before turning serious. “I’m confident in my abilities,” Johnson explained. “I think the playing style that we try to play we take pride in doing every day in practice and I am more than confident in my ability to do that.”
Johnson’s confidence has been tested more than once in his career, going all the way to its very beginning when he was the final Generation Adidas player selected in the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, lasting into the fourth round before finally being grabbed by Chicago.
Johnson soon earned the number one keeper job with the Fire and he and DC United’s Bill Hamid were quickly dubbed 1 and 1A in the Next Great American Keeper Rankings behind incumbent Tim Howard and his understudy Brad Guzan.
But the road to success is rarely smooth and Johnson hit major pothole back in March 2012 when he was beaten by a long range, added time shot against El Salvador, a shot that denied the U.S. a berth in the 2012 Olympics.
Missing out on the Olympics was the first failure of the Klinsmann era with the coach labeling the players on that team a “lost generation.” Five years later and some of those players do indeed appear lost, none more so than team captain Freddy Adu. Injuries have ravaged the careers of others like Terrence Boyd, Joe Gyau, Ike Opara, and Tony Taylor but despite some challenges along the way Johnson is still standing.
So, with Johnson just about entering his prime goalkeeping years, I asked if he is looking at this new club start to reignite his national team chances? “Yeah,” Johnson began, adding, “first and foremost for me it’s establishing myself here in this environment.” “You can’t look too far ahead,” Johnson noted sagely.
Which is not to say that Johnson has abandoned his national team hopes. “Obviously,” Johnson continued, “as a competitor, as somebody who just wants to do anything possible to win and play at the highest level, of course, I want to be that guy for the national team.”
“But,” Johnson adds with words that will be music to Vieira’s ears, “it all starts with the club and building a successful foundation with the club and having success as a team.”