BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Just prior to coming back from the World Cup break two weeks ago, Fire head coach Frank Yallop surveyed where his team stood on the season.
While his side found its way to the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals during their league rest, their position second from bottom in the Eastern Conference left something to be desired.
Returning to league play, Yallop challenge his group as a whole and as individuals to raise their game for the natural second half of the MLS campaign.
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson particularly has responded well, coming up with a combined 19 saves over his past three competitive matches.
“Frank and I had had a good chat,” Johnson told Chicago-Fire.com. “We sat down and went over how the season has gone so far. I think it’s been a good one but we’ve been on the rough end of some results.”
“He challenged me to keep my level of consistency and try to take it up a couple notches. Not try to be the hero but it’s the little things – your presence, being cleaner on the ball, my overall play, my demeanor and how I come across on the field.”
Yallop said the conversation didn’t have anything to do with Johnson’s playing poorly.
“Sean’s been good for us all year,” Yallop said. “We’ve seen over the years how good he can be and maybe just a small push was needed to go up another level. He’s responded well and been fantastic since we’ve come back.”
Johnson took the challenge head on, garnering MLS Save of the Week nominations in each of his past two MLS matches. Saturday’s seven saves, including his late game penalty stop on Chris Tierney also garnered him a Team of the Week selection.
“It’s always a challenge to see if you can kick yourself into an extra gear, especially at a crucial point in the season. I feel myself and the team are hitting a stride at a good time though.”