Sean Johnson didn’t have to make a save in the first 80 minutes of Wednesday’s game against Sporting Kansas City, but the Chicago Fire goalkeeper came up with a pair of big ones in the final minutes.
First, he dove to stop a curling Brad Davis free kick from just outside the box in the 81st minute. Then, he made a tougher save to keep out a Dom Dwyer header in the 87th minute. Johnson was credited with just those two saves for the shutout, his third of the season.
Forward Michael de Leeuw got all the attention for scoring the game’s only goal in his first start and first home match for the Fire, but Johnson’s efforts didn’t go unnoticed by the team. Coach Veljko Paunovic explained how he and de Leeuw were talking about Johnson’s big saves.
“On the way [to the postgame press conference] we were just talking about how important the goal was for us, but also [de Leeuw] mentioned and credit to him, ‘Sean saved us,’” Paunovic said. “Of course I would say that Sean also deserves to be here as one of the players who had a fantastic game. For us that’s what we were looking for.”
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Johnson didn’t play in the first nine matches of the season, but has started the last eight. Matt Lampson, who was the starting goalkeeper in the first portion of the season, has started the Fire’s two U.S. Open Cup matches since Johnson has won the starting job back.
Even though Johnson only had to make two saves, the Fire were under a lot of pressure throughout the match. Sporting KC had an overwhelming majority of the possession and had 19 shots in total, along with a number of free kicks from close range and corner kicks that put more pressure on both Johnson and the Fire’s defense.
“With Brad Davis coming in they had the ability to whip balls in,” Johnson said. “It was just an adjustment we had to make and we were able to do that tonight.
“I think all year we’ve made it a point to really key in on set pieces and be prepared and organized. We pride ourselves especially set pieces, free kicks, corner kicks and not conceding goals. Our setup has been fantastic since preseason. We’ve been working on it and everybody has bought in so I trust every single person that we have set up in the area. Everybody does their job and that’s the only way you’re going to come out with three points.”