It was back on January 14, 2010, that a wide-eyed Sean Johnson stepped to the podium at the MLS SuperDraft in Philadelphia, with the Chicago Fire having just made the University of Central Florida product the 51st player selected on the occasion:
So began a seven-year adventure for Johnson in the Windy City, where he quickly earned the role of first choice goalkeeper and, just as quickly, endeared himself to Fire supporters with his athletic shot-stopping ability, work ethic, community involvement and winning smile.
Johnson’s time with the Men In Red came to an end Sunday with his trade, in exchange for general allocation money, to MLS expansion side Atlanta United FC.
In recent weeks, Johnson’s services drew interest from more than one club within MLS, but ultimately GM Nelson Rodríguez chose Atlanta’s offer over others in part as deference to the Atlanta-area native's contributions in Chicago. After acquiring Johnson, Atlanta United FC then opted to send the goalkeeper north to New York City FC, where Johnson is expected to be a leading candidate for the starting role.
Over the course of his 176 MLS appearances for the Fire, Johnson racked up 15,816 minutes played, the 13th-most by a goalkeeper in MLS history and the fifth-most by a goalie with any one club. Along the way, he provided a slew of memorable individual performances, beginning with his debut in a 3-2 road win over LA Galaxy in 2010 and including his 10 saves at San Jose (July 28, 2012) and eight at Philadelphia (August 16, 2015). Games like these will no doubt be recalled fondly alongside his notable off-field endeavors, from his role as the Milkman to his sweet wheels to his Force-wielding powers in net.
“As this time comes to an end,” Johnson wrote in his farewell letter, “I’ll be embarking on another journey that I’m excited and thankful for. I wish the Fire nothing but the best in the future. It has truly been an absolute honor to wear the badge."
Naturally, Rodríguez, head coach Veljko Paunovic and goalkeeping coach Aleksandar Saric made today’s move with a plan in mind. Having had his 2017 option exercised, 27-year-old Matt Lampson brings starting experience to the goalkeeping group, and it remains to be seen who may be joining him in battling for the lion’s share of minutes.