Bridgeview, IL - You've got to give a hand for the efforts of Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson. He has shown just how much he means to the club each and every match for a team that seems to be struggling and making adjustments this season. However, the big penalty kick save Johnson made, has the making of turning around the season, after their 1-0 victory in New England last weekend.
"Sean (Johnson) has been outstanding these past four or five games," Chicago Fire head coach Frank Yallop said in a post-match interview. "He’s a young goalkeeper and he’s finally starting to have really good performances and he’s also starting to look the part. Things like this make the difference and it was the reason we won that game. Although it was a great penalty that was taken, he also made a great save that was able to keep us ahead in the game."
Johnson made a not just a big save, but one on a penalty kick late in a match in the 85th minute against the New England on the road. The Revolution's Chris Tierney fired the kick off to the right of Johnson, who was able to get a hand on ball and see it bounce off the post right back to him.
“It was just instinct," Johnson said after the match. "I think when it comes down to those moments, you kind of have to live in the moment. You don’t really think about it too much. You just kind of react and I just got a good jump on that side and was able to save it. I mix it up in the moment.
"I’ve gone left, I’ve gone right. I mix it up quite a bit so you never know. If the striker makes it difficult, which he did. it was very well struck, but I was able to get a good jump on it. I was surprised to see it bounce backwards because it was on turf. On grass it just stays put. I was lucky to have the post there. Someone was looking out for me there on that one."
Whether it's the look or not, the 25-year-old Johnson does have some pretty good experience on his side being that he's in his fifth season. He's playing with the Fire or getting some time with the United States national team over the last couple of years that has definitely lifted his ability and confidence back there. But his work ethic and planning for the PK's is something to consider.
"I've faced a lot of penalty shots myself," Johnson said. "I just kind of develop my own checklist, I go through on the day and it’s different every day. It depends on what I really think about when I wake up. Just in the moment, I was able to save it. I watched it the whole way. I saw the ball the whole way. I knew it was going to take a bounce. I didn't know where it was going to go. I just got on my feet as quick as possible and I just took it off the line. I turned around and took it."
It also assured the club of its first league victory on turf in four years and its first victory going back to the middle of May. Johnson also had his second clean sheet this season but his first that was a victory. Since the team has seen 10 draws in 17 MLS league match. Maybe a turning point remains to be seen.
"This was huge," Johnson added. "At a point in the season where we’ve gotten a lot of ties and we needed to really push and get over that hump. I think it really took a win like this and one that took a lot of grit and a lot of fight to really get the result. Three points and a shutout at that. I’m proud of the boys, and it’s just unfortunate to give away a PK when we worked hard. It shows the effort we put in defending and we were able to come out with a victory.
"We can’t relax yet. We’ve tied so many games. We almost tied there at the end with the PK. We’re getting closer and closer to putting together a complete game. We played well for 80-plus minutes and it’s just really grinding it out to see the game out in full. We’ll get better."