Sean Johnson, making a save last year, impressed head coach Patrick Vieira. (Mike Dinovo/USA Today Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
ORLANDO — In his debut as New York City FC goalkeeper, Sean Johnson proved that you don’t have to secure a clean sheet, win or even make a save to impress your boss.
Just ask City head coach Patrick Vieira, who liked what he saw in Johnson, who did not make a save in the season-opening 1-0 loss to Orlando City SC at Orlando City Stadium Sunday.
“I think he was fantastic,” Vieira said. “He was really commanding at the back. I was very pleased with his performance.”
Johnson hopes to get similar praise for the rest of the 34-game schedule, which continues with Sunday’s 2 p.m. home opener at Yankee Stadium against D.C. United.
Once considered a possible heir apparent to Tim Howard to backstop the U.S. national team, Johnson has played in only five international matches since making his debut in 2011. The 27-year-old keepere hopes to continue his revitalize his career at the club level. He was obtained by the Blues in a trade with Atlanta United Dec. 11 and has won the starting keeper’s spot after battling Eirik Johansen and after Josh Saunders, the regular for the squad in its first two seasons, was allowed to sign with Orlando City.
Johnson endured an injury-plagued 2015 and could not secure a regular job last season under then new Chicago Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic. He played in 22 games and registered a 1.66 goals-against average and a 6-10-6 mark.
So, this is a second-chance for Johnson.
“For me personally, it starts with being confident in your own abilities, and it also helps to have the support of a fantastic organization, fantastic staff, fantastic teammates,” he said.
“All the way around, it’s been great as far as the adjustment and having that support and also being there to support my teammate, I think is important as well. It’s a mutual feeling.”
At the very least, NYC FC wants to duplicate last season’s performance, a second-place finish in the MLS Eastern Conference. At the very best, there is MLS Cup.
“It’s early on, the first game of the year, and the chemistry will keep being built over the course of the season,” Johnson said. “We’ll get stronger and stronger. There will be moments where there happens to be a great opportunity for the other team and we try to our best to limit those opportunities.”