Following last week’s confidence-boosting result against the Dynamo amid harsh conditions in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium, Patrick Nyarko’s instant impact off the bench helped the Chicago Fire walk away with a deserved point. This time, the influence of Jamaican forward Jason Johnson lifted the Men in Red to their first-ever win over Seattle Sounders FC.
The 24-year-old entered proceedings in the 65th minute, replacing the Ghanaian and linking up with fellow second-half substitute Michael Stephens to produce a stoppage time winner and lift all 18,528 at Toyota Park to their feet. It was the Fire’s first league win since a 3-0 mauling of the Montreal Impact back on May 30.
“It was a good ball from Mikey Stephens and a good counter attack,” Johnson told reporters in a buoyant Fire dressing room. “I had one thing on my mind and that was to shoot. Even before the ball was played, my mind was set and I’m thankful it went in for me tonight.”
Since joining from the Dynamo in exchange for Brazilian midfielder Alex on April 13, Johnson’s seven appearances with the Men in Red — six as a substitute — manifested glimpses of what the Virginia Commonwealth University standout is capable of: imposing himself onto defenders, utilizing his speed and, against Columbus Crew SC on May 22, using his head.
A 92nd-minute equalizer to secure a second consecutive draw against an Eastern Conference opponent at the time was his first goal in a Fire jersey. For Frank Yallop, Johnson's display Saturday night to prevent the Sounders from standing alone atop the Western Conference was liberating, and it all went according to plan.
“I said get on the right wing, cut in and shoot it in the far corner,” Yallop joked, after being asked what instructions he gave Johnson before his insertion. “No, I just said, “Make a difference, get up and down wherever you’re playing. Get dangerous; we need a goal. Do whatever you need to do to get it onto your left foot and get a strike off.”
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“We were going to go with three in the back, but we decided to go with JJ up front. Great run. For us this season, it was a wonderful goal. We’re very happy for him, he’s a lovely kid as well.”
The team enters the second half of the MLS season with next week’s home fixture against the Crew, which signals the first of 14 remaining matches against Eastern Conference foes to close out the campaign. As for what a first win in nine previous attempts against Sigi Schmid’s delegation can do for a still struggling Fire, Johnson believes an uptick in form could follow after taking a solitary point from their last five league games.
“What does that do for the team? I think it’s great; a great team effort tonight to get a win and get us back on track for the next couple of games. It’s good momentum for the team to get a few more wins in the next week."