Sean Johnson stops Patrick Nyarko with one of his two kick saves. (Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Front Row Soccer Editor
BRONX — David Villa has been around long enough to have the ability reading goalkeepers, friend and foe.
After Sean Johnson came up with several vital stops to backstop New York City FC’s first shutout of the young Major League Soccer season Sunday, the Spanish international striker gave the new acquisition a thumb’s up, not only for what he accomplished with his feet and hands, but how he composed himself.
“It’s really, really good news for us,” Villa said after City’s 4-0 triumph at Yankee Stadium. “Not only for the saves, his body language. His body language gives confidence to the team, to the back four, the corner kicks and set pieces when he plays with his feet.”
How a goalkeeper comports himself can go a long way with his team. A keeper who is unsure of himself could spell doom in a close encounter and cost his team the game and three points, especially if his teammates lose confidence in him.
“Sean is a really calm, really composed,” head coach Patrick Vieira said. “He made a really important save at the right time. Today, every single decision that he made was a good one.”
Especially in the final half.
The Blues rolled to a 3-0 halftime advantage before the former Chicago Fire keeper was called upeon to keep D.C. off the board.
Johnson frustrated forward Patrick Nyarko three times during a 16-minute span. First, he produced a kick save on a Nyarko shot two minutes two minutes into the half before denying the forward with his feet again on the left side of the box in the 62nd minute. Barely a minute later, Johnson caught Nyarko’s header at the far left post for one of his four saves.
Now, denying a goal in the 47th minute might sound inconsequential to a team enjoyed a three-goal lead, but it was contingent upon NYC FC not to give the visitors any momentum or a chance to get back into the game.
“In a game when we are up 3-0 we obviously don’t want to give the other team any hope or a glimmer or hope to get back in the game,” Johnson said. “They started off well out of the game in the second half. We did well to withstand that preessure.
“I was called on to make a couple of saves. That’s my job. I take my pride in the ball staying out of the back of the net no matter what the scoreline is. I know everybody on the field does as well. We wanted to make sure we continued to control the game and finish with a good result. To get a shutout and a win today was brilliant.”
The 6-4 Johnson enjoyed his City debut at the stadium on a frigid, Sunday afternoon as he received a warm welcome from the fans before his cold, calculated performance in the net.
“It’s great, it’s fantastic,” Johnson said of his first shutout. First a win then a shutout as well is tremendous. Not only for myself but for the group. We’ve been working really hard all preseason.
“We played well in the first game, didn’t get anything out of it. We were all pretty upset and disappointed so we really focused, got back to work and really had the intention of putting on a good performance and coming away with a convincing result.”