Chicago Fire starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson will head to Everton FC to take up a week-long training stint at Everton FC’s Finch Farm training ground from Dec. 4 – 10.
“It’s a very good thing,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas Wednesday. “For a young goalkeeper like Sean, it’s great that he’s continuing to train and develop in the offseason. He’ll be in a different environment where he can learn from a talented keeper in Tim Howard and go up against Premier League players. It benefits us as much as it does for him to have that experience.”
Over the past few years the club has emphasized the importance of building relationships with other well-known teams around the world. Klopas points to one built with the Toffees from the sides’ friendly meeting at Toyota Park in July 2008 (a 2-0 Fire win) as part of the reason for Johnson’s opportunity.
“We got to know David Moyes then and we’re seeing the benefit from that with this. With Manchester United coming over in July and the alliance partnership we now have with Atletico Madrid that includes Club America and other teams from around the world, there are going to be more opportunities like this for our young players.”
Everton has been one of the foreign club’s that has long seen the value in American players with Howard, former Fire striker Brian McBride, Joe-Max Moore and Landon Donovan all having graced the Goodison Park pitch in the past.
In addition, the training stint may hold dual purpose for Johnson’s international career.
Having made his debut for the U.S. Men’s National Team under Bob Bradley in a friendly vs. Chile in January, Johnson hasn’t been called up by new U.S. head coach Jurgen Klinsmann since the German manager took over in July.
Recently the U.S. boss spoke of the long offseason for MLS players and signaled his desire for those in the domestic player pool to train abroad in the offseason. With that, Johnson will join the likes of Juan Agudelo, Brek Shea and Tim Ream as MLS-based U.S. internationals that are spending a portion of the offseason with a European club.
“The MLS offseason break is a lot longer compared to the leagues in Europe. Younger players like Sean need to be playing to develop their talents,” agreed Klopas.
Though he hasn’t seen time recently with the senior national team, Johnson took part in the first U23 training camp of the cycle last month in Germany and the 22-year-old Fire keeper is a favorite to be part of Caleb Porter’s team for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying next spring.
With the Fire making available both Jon Conway and Alec Dufty for next week’s Re-Entry Draft, finding a backup that can step in for Johnson during qualifying and possibly next summer’s Olympics will be an offseason priority for the club’s technical staff.
Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.