With the Jacksonville portion of preseason completed, Sean Johnson was able to relax with his New York City FC teammates and soak in the the American tradition of Super Bowl Sunday.
Johnson grew up in Lilburn, Georgia and attended Brookwood High School, sharing notable alumni status with former Atlanta Falcons placekicker, Jason Elam. It was just down the road a piece from the center of Atlanta. Johnson flaunted his support of the Falcons in a quest to win their first Super Bowl.
The Johnson twitter account has been silent since his beloved Falcons failed to secure a 25-point lead, succumbing to the New England Patriots.
“I’m still trying to figure that one out,” said Johnson after the final training session ahead of today’s exhibition in Guayaquil, Ecuador. “I’ve been getting a lot of stick about the result of the game from my teammates. I was pretty confident at halftime – sticking my chest out a little bit too soon apparently.”
The veteran goalkeeper is entering his seventh season in Major League Soccer. After spending his first six years as a professional in Chicago with the Fire, Johnson brings massive expectations with him to New York City although briefly it appeared that he was going to move closer to home.
“I guess, on my Wikipedia page, there’ll be a little notch there that I played for Atlanta for all of a few days,” Johnson said.
The nascent Atlanta United franchise had acquired Johnson from the Fire before shipping him to New York in exchange for General and Targeted Allocation Money. If Johnson was disappointed to miss the chance to remain closer to his southern roots, it was not apparent in his voice and countenance.
“I don’t have time to dwell on what’s happened in the past,” Johnson said. “The important thing was getting into a situation where I was wanted – feeling wanted and feeling like family from day one was really important to me and that’s what I felt here.”
Johnson did not receive that sort of warmth in his final year with the Fire. First-year coach Veljko Paunovic elected to utilize the less experienced Matt Lampson in critical portions of the season. At 27-years-old, Johnson was uncertain about his future.
“What’s happened in the past, I’m thankful for the opportunities,” said the University of Central Florida alum. “Every manager makes their decisions – right now my focus has got to be to get into the situation here in New York, and really settle down.”
With the departure of Josh Saunders to Orlando City, Johnson has only moderate competition for the starting nod. Consequently, NYCFC coach Patrick Vieira is assured that Johnson will be at ease attending to the required directive of building out of the back – the primary reason that Saunders, who was never comfortable with the ball at his feet, has departed.
“Playing with the national team under Jurgen (Klinsmann) right around the time of the World Cup was the same thing,” said Johnson, who has earned five caps with the USMNT. “The expectation was to build out of the back. So, I’ve had that pressure before to do what was necessary and to commit to playing that way. Getting in the rhythm to do it every day is the key – not only playing the ball but moving into spaces where I can help support guys.”
Wednesday will see Johnson’s second game with his new team, although the 9-0 thrashing of Jacksonville University last week was hardly the exam that he and his mates will face tonight against Emelec, champions of Ecuador’s top division three of the past four years.
Johnson admired an image on Sunday that ruined his day – one he hopes to emulate in his fresh surroundings.
“The greatest quarterback of all time took over the game,” he said, referring to the man who led the Patriots rally in the Super Bowl, Tom Brady. “I want to be that rock in the back like him and exude confidence throughout the team.”