- DOB May 31, 1989
- Age 28
- Place of birth Lilburn, Georgia
- POSITION Goalkeeper
- HEIGHT 6'4"
- WEIGHT 215
- U.S. CAPS 5
- CLUB Chicago Fire
- TWITTER @sjohn25 (13.6K followers)
Sean Johnson—the Chicago Fire's tall, athletic goalkeeper—could have folded up, quit, and never been the same. Instead, he seems to have recovered from an epic blunder in CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, learned from it, and moved on.
Johnson joined MLS in 2010 after two seasons at the University of Central Florida. He earned a starting spot with the Fire by August, beating out Andrew Dykstra, and finishing the season with 13 starts. Johnson shined the following year, starting 28 games and earning seven clean sheets. He also won his first national team cap when he played the second half of a January 22, 2011, match against Chile.
Johnson and Bill Hamid established themselves as the goalkeepers-in-waiting for the American team. Both goalies earned calls to join the U.S. Under-23 squad as it tried to qualify for the 2012 Olympics. Hamid had the inside track, starting every game, but Johnson replaced the D.C. United goalie in the final match against El Salvador. Then, disaster. In the game’s closing moments, the Georgia native let in a soft goal, allowing the Central American side to level the score at three, and eliminating the Americans from contention. "He (Johnson) feels like he's let everybody down, let his teammates down," U.S. coach Caleb Porter said afterward. "I told him he didn't." Still, Johnson was devastated and there were serious questions about how (and if) he could recover.
To the goalkeeper's credit, he did. "Obviously it was disappointing,” Johnson told the Chicago Tribune at the beginning of the 2012 MLS season. But “every negative experience you can turn into a positive. At the end of the day, it's motivation to become a better player and person and move forward in my career. I don't think one game defines me as a player." If anything, Johnson—after some initial yips—has performed better since the howler against El Salvador. Klinsmann rewarded the player's hard work by continuing to call him into national team camps. He was the backup goalkeeper to Nick Rimando when the U.S. won the 2013 Gold Cup and went the full 90 in that tournament in a 1-0 win over Costa Rica —NOAH DAVIS
Klinsmann on Johnson:
"Sean found his way back to balance and put this horrible moment behind him. He focused on work day in and day out and said ‘I’ve got to do my best possible for the Chicago Fire and that I’ve got to be consistent, that I’m there to help my team win games and that I’m learning something new every day.’ I think Frank Klopas has done a tremendous job with him and given him lots of support, and that’s why we called him back in." (August 2012)
Noteworthy ReadsFire's Johnson on Olympic Failure: 'It Was Disappointing" (Chicago Tribune)
Fire's Johnson Standing Out in Goal (Chicago Tribune)