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.
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.”