Johnson outstanding in goal in first Gold Cup start for USMNT

SeanJohnsonVCostaRica (ISIPhotos.com)

Photo by ISIPhotos.com

By DAN KARELL

EAST HARTFORD, Conn.– Conventional wisdom wouldn’t have given Sean Johnson the opportunity of a lifetime on Tuesday night. However, U.S. Men’s National Team head coach Jurgen Klinsmann isn’t one for doing things by the book.

Taking advantage of an unexpected start in place of Nick Rimando, Johnson had a man-of-the-match performance in goal for the United States Men’s National Team in their 1-0 victory over Costa Rica in the Gold Cup.

In particular, Johnson’s 82nd-minute save of a Carlos Johnson header that was pushed onto the crossbar ended up in the opposite goal less than 20 seconds later thanks to a brilliant pass from Landon Donovan and a calm finish by Brek Shea.

“The ball was played back post, and (Carlos Johnson) did a good job to rise,” Johnson said following the match. “He’s a good player in the air, so I wanted to make sure that I got my feet across, got set, and I was able to come away with the save at the end of it.”

As impressive as the save and subsequent clean sheet was, maybe more impressive was that Johnson was starting in the first place. Not only was it the first start in the Gold Cup for the 24-year-old Georgia native, but it was his first start in any kind of official FIFA tournament for the senior national team, officially cap-tying the dual-national (Johnson holds Jamaican citizenship through his parents) to the United States.

Though he doesn’t have the international experience that Rimando has, Klinsmann was confident in playing Johnson in arguably the biggest game of his life, and a game that the U.S. head coach continually called a bench-mark game in the run-up to kickoff. The performance given over the 90 minutes earned praise from all of Johnson’s teammates and the coaching staff.

“He deserved a shot tonight, this is a big game,” U.S. captain DaMarcus Beasley said. “This was not an easy team to play and Jurgen kind of threw him into the wolves and (Johnson) did very well. These are the games where you want your guys to step up and this is the time to shine, and I’m so proud of Sean because he definitely deserved it and he definitely did very well tonight.”

While Johnson may be green in the international experience department, he’s earned his spot on the national team by continuing to be a standout as the Chicago Fire’s starting goalkeeper for each of the last three seasons. Playing and starting in a total of 86 matches in Major League Soccer was likely the reason that Johnson said he wasn’t too nervous ahead of the game.

“The coaches wanted to make sure I was prepared to go into the game,” said Johnson, after finding out he would start the day before. “Once the whistle blows I think everything (with nervousness) is out of the window. You just play your game, try to do the best you can, and keep your team in it.”

Added U.S. midfielder Stuart Holden: “I told him before the game ‘be confident and believe in your ability.’ I really felt like he commanded his box well, he started the attack for us, and it was great for him to get a clean sheet in his appearance tonight.”

It is still far from a safe bet that Johnson will make it to next year’s World Cup in Brazil, but his performance against Costa Rica re-iterated the strength in depth that the USMNT has in it’s goalkeepers, easily the deepest position on the team.

And while Johnson continues to train with the USMNT squad ahead of their next match in Baltimore, his teammates and those around him know he has a bright future, with plenty of more international matches ahead of him.

“It’s always an honor to put that jersey on and represent your country,” Johnson said. “It’s something that you’ll never get tired of so it’s a special moment for me.”

This entry was posted in CONCACAF Gold Cup, Featured, MLS- Chicago Fire, U.S. Men's National Team. Bookmark the permalink.

20 Responses to Johnson outstanding in goal in first Gold Cup start for USMNT

  1. SanFran415 says:

    Matches Hamid for athleticism and shot stopping–but is significantly more mature and composed. He could potentially take that 3rd GK spot on the plane to Brazil with more strong performances for his club and any drop in Rimando’s form.

    He p@ssed his first major USMNT test with flying colors.

    • Dan says:

      I like having Johnson over Rimando to Brazil just b/c the experience will pay dividends down the line whereas Rimando is probably done after this campaign.

      • john says:

        +1

        Hanemann got the 3rd seat to South Africa and, in truth, maybe it would have been better to bring a younger ‘keeper for the experience. He’d already gone to Germany and was entering the twilight of his career, even though if memory serves, he was in good form for wolves.

    • Nate Dollars says:

      hm…sounds like someone’s a chicago fan…

      i consider them about equal. ‘significantly more mature and composed’? nah.

  2. Benny Dargle says:

    I didn’t realize Johnson was a dual national. Nice that we’ve used the Gold Cup to cap-tie both Mix and Sean — two young guys who look like they have a future with the USMNT.

  3. Raymon says:

    MOTM to me is Jurgen Klinsmann. He threw a couple of curves, including starting SJ and giving Brek another chance, both risks which paid off hugely. I am not suggesting we build a statue of the guy, but he has managed this team more than ably, over the last 6 months. His biggest achievement is the depth chart that’s deeper than I remember it ever being. His second biggest achievement is managing the LD10 situation. He has played the hand he was dealt with well.

    • SanFran415 says:

      It’s quite amazing.

      Look at how Landon plays for the Galaxy and then look at how he’s playing for the USMNT. He’s far, far better for the national team and he seems to have matured greatly.

      I bet he’s a big Klinsmann fan now.

  4. bryan says:

    Holden needs to publish a daily motivational calendar. Every article there is a quote of some inspiring thing he said to a teammate. haha

    i love having Johnson and Hamid in the pipeline!

  5. Tim F. says:

    We are hoping the best for Johnson and Hamid as they are keys for the future. I felt Johnson was good yesterday but I don’t know about outstanding. Johnson wasn’t tested extensively and he could have handled some passbacks with better distribution.

    • Davy Crockett says:

      I thought I was the only one that wasn’t amazed by him yesterday. He made that one great save, a couple of good plays, but to me he didn’t seem very decisive/aggressive on some set plays and some passes from the backs. Not a big deal yesterday, but could be on another day. Would be interesting to know how well he communicated with Goodson and Orozco–tough to really know outside of the locker room.

  6. Beto says:

    Great game for the Sean “Cookie Monster” John. Being a GK in the US Pool is all about games like this. You might get 1 or 2 games a year for five-eight years before he starts regularly but if you deliver MoM worth results you keep your spot in line.

  7. Lane Boyt says:

    I would absolutely take him over Rimando any day! He is just more pro-active and we really need these younger guys playing more. He will absolutely be the #3 in Brazil.

  8. Dave from Charlotte says:

    Surprised that there arent more articles being writtem about his performance and that save…real reaction save on a world class level….that header was coming in hot!

  9. Sean John says:

    Ives – do you know what my contract status is? There may be a doughnut in it for you…

  10. MJM says:

    Rimando looked shaky out there first two games. Every time he came out he looked uncertain. In constrask Sean Johnson made every move unambiguously. I’d ride Johnson rest of way. He doesn’t have the distribution of our A-teamers; and that’s a big part of being a GK (I was one once, and that was my downfall too). But, that can be worked on and SJ and Hamid are maybe our next great American GKs, might as well give them matches with the B squad.

  11. Kevin_H says:

    Hats off to Johnson for the reflex save. Then Corona with a Clarence that was pretty Good, son! Donovan then crosses the ball, Landon right in front of Shea who is on a Brekaway!