No Chicago Fire player has had a busier offseason than goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Since the book to the club’s 2011 campaign closed on October 22, the Fire netminder has already made two trips across the pond, first in a training camp with the U.S. U23 Men’s National Team in Germany last month before this month’s week-and-a-half long stint with English Premiership side Everton FC.
Upon returning stateside Thursday, Johnson wasn’t about to take any rest as he was en route to another U.S. U23 camp, set to kick off Friday in Lakewood Ranch, FL.
“I’ve already gone through a lot of work this offseason,” said Johnson. “The two trips abroad have helped me stay sharp.”
In particular, Johnson’s stint with the Toffees at the club’s Finch Farm training ground allowed the rising U.S. keeper the chance to train with current American number one Tim Howard.
“We were together every day. Timmy obviously is their starter and he has his own job to do but he gave me pointers, it was just good to be able to train with him and to see how he goes about his daily routine. It was good to be around him, he was very helpful and I was grateful for the experience.”
Working alongside Howard wasn’t the only benefit of the trip, but rather getting to see differences from how training is run and facing Premier League players on a daily basis was something Johnson took away.
”There are some similarities, obviously it’s a team in the top league in the world though. Some of the things you see in training are just of a different class, it was good for me to experience that and get a feel for that level every day. All the guys there are great players but in my eyes I think the craftiest player to go up against was Marouane Fellani – he’s such a great talent.”
Returning stateside Thursday, Johnson’s again headed back to U.S. U23 camp, this time in Lakewood Ranch, FL, where he’ll train under new U23 head coach Caleb Porter for the first time. The U.S. Soccer Federation’s Youth Technical Director Claudio Reyna led the team in Germany while Porter tended to his collegiate duties with Akron University.
Johnson impressed during the nine-day camp last month, closing out the gathering playing 90 minutes in the team’s 3-1 win over VfL Bochum.
“The camp in Germany was good. It was the first U23 trip for this group of guys to get together. Obviously we came out with a win and a tie there which were pretty good results for our first games. In this setup you have to jell quickly. I’m definitely looking forward to this camp in Florida, it should be an exciting week and a good chance to get to know Caleb, see the ideas and system he’ll be putting into place for us.”
The U.S. U23 side was grouped with Canada, Cuba and El Salvador for next spring’s CONCACAF pre-Olympic qualifiers which will take place March 22-April 2 in Nashville, TN, Carson, CA and Kansas City, KS.
If the U.S advances from its group and wins its semifinal matchup, Johnson will set his sights on the 2012 Summer Olympics in London.
Jeff Crandall is the team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.