Johnson uses SuperLiga as springboard

Backup grabs shutout, helps Fire snap four-game losing streak

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – He wasn’t the likeliest of heroes, but Fire goalie Sean Johnson stepped up in a major way during Chicago’s 1-0 SuperLiga win over Pumas UNAM Tuesday night.

The 6-foot-4 rookie, who normally serves as a backup to Andrew Dykstra, made his second consecutive start and looked good in the process. He snagged several key saves, barked out orders with authority, and – most importantly – put an end to Chicago’s four game losing streak overall.

“It feels good,” Johnson said of the win, which was his first as a professional. “Shutouts are always good, not only for myself, but also for the team. It shows defensive effort for 90 minutes, and we got a goal and defended really well.”

Johnson was tested in the 84th minute, when he faced a pair of difficult shots in quick succession. The Generation Adidas player handled the situation well, parrying away Oscar Rojas’ low drive and recovering nicely to keep the follow up attempt out.

“[Rojas] cut inside and shot. I think it took a little deflection, which is why I had to parry it,” Johnson said. “They put it back in [and I was able to keep it out]. It just called for a save and that’s what games are about. Our offense got us a goal and our defense handled the rest.”

Johnson’s teammates took note of the fourth-round pick’s solid performance.

“He’s great,” Fire forward Brian McBride said. “He’s done very well. He’s progressed throughout the season. I know people haven’t had a lot of chance to see him, but the talent he has is there. We see it every day in practice and he’s done very well in these games.”

When prompted, Fire assistant coach Mike Matkovich (who stood in for head coach Carlos de los Cobos during the postgame press conference) didn’t rule out the possibility that Johnson would see more playing time as a result of his recent performances.

“It’s a complicated question that you need to ask Carlos,” Matkovich said. “But it’s the nature of competition. He has put together two good performances in a row and we evaluate every effort made by the players.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com or on Twitter at Sam_Stejskal.