Johnson stops all comers but one in standout performance
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – For 97 minutes of the Chicago Fire’s 1-1 tie against San Jose on Saturday, there was no doubt in Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson’s mind that he’d saved every shot that came at him.
Whether it was Simon Dawkins’ volley that looked destined for the back of the net, a header from Alan Gordon that skimmed the ground in front of him and jetted toward goal or a chip from Dawkins that looked like it had him beat, Johnson knew he was going to save each shot as it left his opponent’s foot or head.
Until Steven Lenhart’s volley was fired hopelessly past him in the eighth minute of stoppage time, Johnson stonewalled the Earthquakes with 10 saves.
“The only one I knew I couldn’t get to was the one that went in the back of the net,” Johnson told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “Gordon’s header in the second half was a tough one because it was going down on a line and back away from me. You try to have a mentality that you’ll save everything that comes your way.”
WATCH: Johnson dominates vs. SJ
Johnson leapt and dove to cover almost every inch of the goal with his 6-foot-3 frame while the man who taught him to be a professional looked on from the other end of the field.
In preseason of 2010, San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch was a seasoned veteran and the incumbent starter in the Fire’s preseason camp, while Johnson was an unproven, third-string rookie.
“He honestly taught me that you have to work hard every day,” Johnson said. “I honestly couldn’t tell you someone who works harder every day to get better. He pushes himself and he pushes everyone around him. His advice to me was just, ‘Stay humble and keep working, and never settle for being good, you always want to be great.’”
Busch’s advice is part of the reason Johnson isn’t letting his confidence get too high after his almost other-worldly performance. Similarly, he doesn’t get too low after making mistakes.
“I was a lot more active than I’ve had to be in the past,” Johnson said when asked if Saturday’s game was the best of his career. “Did I have a perfect game? Absolutely not. You look at the game as a whole and not just certain moments. You look at every decision on the field, and no one has a perfect game.”
Johnson is still working on things like positioning, distribution, and dealing with crosses. At 23 years old, he’s still working on learning what it takes to be a professional goalkeeper.
He’s learning how to deal with both mistakes and success, both of which he’s had in abundance during his three-year career.
While Johnson wouldn’t give himself too much credit after one game, his mentor on the other end of the field made put his performance into context.
“Sean was awesome tonight,” Busch told reporters after the game. “He has a bright future ahead of him. He is a future senior national team goalkeeper and I told him that. He was fantastic.”