Fire’s Johnson ready after busy offseason

Johnson (Reuters Pictures)

By DAVID GUBALA

The Chicago Fire departed for Ventura, Calif., on Wednesday with a long-missed face settling back with the team for the first time since the end of the regular season.

After having quite the busy offseason, goalkeeper Sean Johnson finally regrouped with the Fire for their second phase of preseason.

The 22-year-old Johnson had offseason stints in Europe and with the U.S. national team, from which he picked plenty of valuable qualities that he looks to incorporate into his game for the upcoming season.

"It’s been good, an incredible experience," Johnson said. "It was a lot of traveling. I first flew into Germany, then Everton for 8-to-12 days and I loved it. Plenty of good people all around and it was a great opportunity for me to learn a lot from those guys."

Following his time in Europe, Johnson was called into Jurgen Klinsmann's January camp as one of three goalkeepers on the roster. He did not feature in the U.S. national team’s 1-0 victory over Venezuela on Jan. 21, making way for Bill Hamid. Johnson got a chance in the following match, playing the second half against Panama four days later in Panama City to earn his second cap. The first came in a similar scenario, when he played the second half of a U.S. friendly against Chile in Jan., 2011.

"The [Panama] game was unbelievable. I was brought in the second half, with a man down, and you can’t ask for a better setting for a player to learn from," Johnson said. "I learned how to manage things in the game and what it's like to play in a different environment."

Specifically, these experiences let Johnson learn a lot about his mental and physical abilities as a player and allowed him to examine his full potential as a goalkeeper.

"You pick up many things here and there and those things stick with you in your memory," Johnson said. "It's all about experience at the end of the day. Whether you're on or off the field, it all comes together. I learned a lot about resting and taking care of yourself and was able to gain such knowledge in the offseason."

Johnson breaks from that offseason and enters arguably the biggest year of his professional career. On the club stage, he'll try and backstop the Fire to the playoffs after the club's two-year postseason hiatus. With the club's season opener a little more than a month away, Johnson's focus is squarely on getting the club over the hump.

"It’s important to make it to the playoffs this season," Johnson said. "It’s a huge thing for us to focus on."

Aside from his club responsibilities, Johnson is also looking at more time wearing a U.S. kit. After getting a call-up from Klinsmann, he hopes to get one from U.S. Under-23 coach Caleb Porter as well, as he looks ahead to CONCACAF Olympic qualifying. Between Johnson, Hamid and Philadelphia Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath, there is plenty of competition among young American goalkeepers for a place in next month's tournament — and if things go well, a place in London this summer.

"I can only do all I can to make the Olympics, and it’s all about how I conduct myself during the season," Johnson said. "It's definitely possible, and I want to put myself in the best position, because it the end, it's the coach's decision.

"I improved as a player mentally and physically. Coming off an entire MLS season and all my experiences combined in the offseason will make me better this season."

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9 Responses to Fire’s Johnson ready after busy offseason

  1. strider says:

    Looking forward to seeing Sean continue to develop into a world class player. He seems to have the right attitude and just needs experience. Only time will tell how good he can be.

  2. biff says:

    I thought Sean Johnson looked solid against Panama in January, was composed and protected the net with an authority and confidence that I didn’t see in Bill Hamid against Venezuela. In a big game at the current time, if Hamid and Johnson were the only two choices, I would feel more at ease with Johnson guarding the goal. If almost appears as if Klinsmann is laying the groundwork to anoint Hamid the Number 2 behind Tim Howard. Hamid no doubt has potential to become an outstanding goalkeeper, but has not yet proved himself at the club level, needs more time to learn and until he does, all options need to be open.

  3. Modibo says:

    I think it’s common knowledge that Klinsi asked Howard for advice on the #2 and he suggested Hamid. The fact that Johnson went to Everton and got some face time with Howard, too, may have the potential to change the balance of power… or it may be that Howard tells Klinsi that Johnson would be a competent backup to Hamid.

    Johnson’s improvement over the last season with the Fire, in particular, was noteworthy. In ’10 and early last season (before being benched), he had some howlers on crosses and high balls in the box. He was much steadier in the last half of the season. So unlike for example Bouna Condoul, he has shown that he can improve on those aspects of his game that don’t relate solely to agility and physical presence – like timing, decision-making, communication.

  4. Mils says:

    Chicago is so under the radar….They still could use a DP tho

  5. Dimidri says:

    AGreed-think will finish 2nd after SKC.

  6. wildchild says:

    a long-missed face settling back…

  7. jeremy says:

    Yep, people don’t even know about how good Robayo is- Fire have one of the top midfields in the east

  8. Air Jordanz says:

    Reports are that he busted his butt in camp with the Nats last month.

    Things are looking up for him.

  9. isaf says:

    hope he gets his chance to head to Europe in the next few years, same with Hamid. We’ll need them in 2018 and onward