Fire

Sean Johnson happy to see familiar faces in return to Toyota Park

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USA TODAY

Sean Johnson happy to see familiar faces in return to Toyota Park

For seven years, Sean Johnson patrolled the posts for the Fire, but on Saturday he returned as a member of the away team.

Johnson and his New York City FC earned a point at Toyota Park to keep the Fire at arm’s length in the standings and hold onto the second spot in the Eastern Conference. When the game ended, Johnson was shaking hands, hugging and catching up with familiar faces.

“It’s good to be back,” Johnson said. “Having played here for seven years in my career, to be back where it all started and the fans that supported me throughout my career, it’s great.”

The Fire traded Johnson, who made 176 MLS appearances with the Fire, in the offseason to his hometown team of Atlanta as that team was preparing for its expansion season. However, Atlanta had the opportunity to land national team goalkeeper Brad Guzan and took it, making Johnson expendable. Johnson was then sent to NYCFC and news broke before his move to Atlanta was even official. Johnson has started 30 of 32 MLS games for his new team this season.

Johnson made one save in the 1-1 draw after being hung out to dry by teammate Maxi Moralez, who dribbled towards his own goal and then was stripped of the ball right in front, leaving Johnson with no chance to stop Nemanja Nikolic’s 21st goal of the season.

After David Villa tied things up before halftime, scoring his 20th of the season, NYCFC was able to get a positive result.

“I think it’s an important point given the other results that happened tonight,” Johnson said. “For us we’ll take the point. We’ll keep going. I think two games left, anything is possible. We just have to keep chugging along, get everybody healthy and ready to go into the postseason.”

NYCFC is three points ahead of Atlanta, although Atlanta has a game in hand, and four points ahead of the Fire for the second spot and the first-round bye that comes with it. The draw practically eliminated the Fire’s hopes of getting second.

[RELATED: Why Fire's draw against New York City FC could be a sign of things to come]

Johnson endured the Fire’s struggles in recent years, but sees a more organized team this season.

“They’ve done a good job,” he said. “They’ve organized themselves well so hats off to them, but it’s good to see some old faces, but some new ones as well.”

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

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AP

Special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast: What’s wrong with U.S. Soccer?

It's a special edition of the Fire Talk Podcast!

Dan Santaromita, Justin O’Neil, JJ Stankevitz and Tom Cooper try to answer all the questions that surfaced after the U.S. failed to qualify for the World Cup. What went wrong in qualifying, who was at fault, what can be fixed, will things get better? Has any American soccer fan calmed down even a week after? The four on the panel sure still are plenty fired up.

Notes from the rewatch: What stood out about the goals in Fire's win against Union

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USA TODAY

Notes from the rewatch: What stood out about the goals in Fire's win against Union

Normally when revisiting games there are trends or performances that stick out, but the most notable plays from Sunday's Fire win against Philadelphia were the goals.

Here's what stood out from the four goals that were scored from open play in the Fire's 3-2 victory.

Nikolic gives Fire early lead on long ball

Believe it or not this pass was a direct assist on the first goal of the game:

Brandon Vincent is barely beyond his own penalty box when he launches one for Nemanja Nikolic. The ball bounces three times before Nikolic gets his first touch on it. His second touch is a goal.

The pass itself is nothing special and a defensive error plays a part, but it's hard to believe a pass from that far back can result in an assist.

Philly’s first goal is a chain reaction

On the first goal for Philly, the play begins when Matt Polster is caught way too high in press. Philly was building out of back and Polster, the Fire's right back, pressed well past midfield to win a ball and didn't.

When he doesn’t win it, the ball falls to Fafa Picault behind him on the left wing. Next it's off to the races for the Union.

Center back Johan Kappelhof moves wide to cover for Polster and defend Picault, who makes a nice switch to Chris Pontius after the Fire appeared to be getting back in position. C.J. Sapong beats Joao Meira, who a minute before shook off a leg injury that forced him to have a significant limp after the match. Sapong probably had the edge in the first-step department at that point to get some separation. Kappelhof had to try to slide it away because Picault was waiting at the back post for a tap-in.


The Fire had a chance to recover, but it all started with Polster getting caught too high up the field.

Union string passes together to take lead

A Dax McCarty turnover gave Philadelphia possession and the Union combined passes for an impressive team goal. First it was eight straight passes before one was broken up, but Philadelphia immediately regained possession and connected 12 more passes. After an initial cross is headed away, the second pass after that is Haris Medunjanin chipping a pass to Alejandro Bedoya for the goal. Just an impressive team goal from the Union, even if goalkeeper Matt Lampson made things easier for Bedoya on the finish by coming off his line too early.

Nikolic shows his instincts for game-winner

As for the Fire’s third goal, just watch Landon Donovan and recently-fired New England Revolution coach Jay Heaps explain what happened:

(Note: The video appears to be down for some reason even though it's still linked on the homepage of MLSsoccer.com. The gist of it is that Nikolic did a great job delaying his run to find the space that set him up for the goal as opposed to crashing the six-yard box and being more tightly marked.)