BY ADAM SERRANO
Sean Johnson is making a habit of using the Home Depot Center as a launching pad to his success.
On August 1st, 2010, Sean Johnson started his professional career at the Home Depot Center, in the Chicago Fire's 3-2 victory over the Los Angeles Galaxy. After that Johnson rarely looked back as he solidified his place as the Fire's number one goalkeeper.
For the past month, Johnson has trained at the Home Depot Center with the U.S. national team in hopes of using the confines of the HDC to launch his international career in the same manner that his professional career began five months ago.
Johnson joins the U.S. national camp and figures to play a major role in the Olympic team for 2012 as one of the six Olympic eligible players on the camp roster. It is unknown yet whether Johnson will have the same success or even make the final gameday roster for Saturday's match with Chile, but whether or not he makes the cut, Johnson has earned something far more valuable. He has earned the chance to be taught by some of the best goalkeepers in MLS, a chance that Johnson is eager to capitalize on.
"I've been looking to the older guys for the experience and its always good to have them around to provide guidance," said Johnson. "They've told me to stay relaxed and that's the main thing for me because being a young guy, I'm anxious to preform. So they keep me focused and help me prepare."
Johnson starts 2011 after a whirlwind 2010 that saw a number of changes in the young goalkeeper's life. A Generation Adidas signee out of the University of Central Florida, Johnson endured an uneven MLS combine, which saw his stock fall despite being considered the best goalkeeping prospect available. Johnson was eventually selected in the fourth-round of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire. It seemed unlikely that he would play a role in his rookie season, but the departure of Jon Busch and an injury to Andrew Dykstra opened the door and by the end of the season, Johnson was the Fire's number one keeper.
In addition, to his success with the Fire, the former United States U-20 international helped lead the Generation Adidas select team during their time in Spain. With an impressive 2010, Johnson caught the eye of MLS veteran Nick Rimando, who is one of four goalkeepers on the squad. While in camp, Johnson has spent a great deal of time learning from Rimando. The Real Salt Lake goalkeeper has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS history, and he has come away impressed with what he has seen from Johnson in camp.
"He's a kid with confidence and one that listens and first in foremost, that's the best quality that you can have as a young goalkeeper," said Rimando. "To just listen and take in what you can is very important. Overall, his technique is great and he's just been willing to learn."
The opportunity to study the goalkeeping craft under a player as seasoned as Rimando in January could pay major dividends for Johnson during the start of the MLS season. Johnson and the Fire will be eager to return to the playoffs after missing the post season for the first time since 2004. With a young defensive corps in front of him after the departure of key veteran C.J. Brown, Johnson's role as leader in the back will become even more vital.
With a vital year on the horizon for both his club and the country, it is understandable for a second-year player to become nervous. However, Johnson understands that no matter what becomes of this particular stint with the national team, what is important is to apply what he has learned to become a better player.
"This experience has been great for me because I've played with the best players and when you play with the best players, you can raise your own level," said Johnson. "It'll help me ten-fold and I'll apply all that I have learned here and apply it to the season that we have coming up."