Sean Johnson: “Our performances have spoken for themselves and I’m in a good environment here.” (Kyle Terada/USA TODAY Sports)
BRONX — Atlanta native Sean Johnson returns as a conquering hero to his hometown as New York City FC will meet Atlanta United Sunday.
Johnson has been nothing but outstanding for NYCFC this season.
The veteran goalkeeper said he enters the game without a chip on his shoulder.
“I have nothing to prove while I’m down there,” Johnson said after City’s 4-0 home victory over Real Salt Lake Wednesday night. “I’ve been with this group for two years now. Our performances have spoken for themselves and I’m in a good environment here. I’m happy where I am.
“I think everything works out for a reason – for us there’s another game to be played, another important Eastern Conference matchup – but nothing else can be managed besides going down there and getting a result.”
In a battle of conference elite sides, NYCFC (5-0-1, 16 points) enters the match with a four-point advantage over Atlanta (4-1-0, 12) , so no matter what transpires, the visitors will leave with the conference lead.
Without David Villa in the Starting XI, NYCFC continued its dominance over its opposition with the best record in the league. Ismael-Tajouri-Shradi, Maxi Moralez, Jo Inge Berget and Ebenezer Ofori tallied for the winners vs. RSL.
“I think most importantly for us – every game is a different challenge,” Johnson said. “We have a group of players that are very driven, very focused, very hungry – I think hungry is the best word to describe this group. Every game, we know we have to go in and put on a performance. When we get a result, we analyze it – both the good and bad. We work on things throughout the week and then our focus shifts to the next game. We don’t really think in the past – that’s been our key to success over this stretch – it’s really just focusing on the task at hand and then after the task just focus on the next one.”
Tajouri-Shradi has scored four goals in his three games deputizing for Villa, who has recovered from a calf injury, and Berget found the net for the first time this season.
Trying to figure out who will start against Atlanta could be a problem, but head coach Patrick Vieira would rather have that problem than not.
“What would make my job really difficult for the next game is for me to choose the starting eleven,” he said. “I will have to be honest with the players as usual. It will be a tough decision I will have to make, but i will always think about the team before thinking about individuals. When you look at the way Ismael, Jesus [Medina], and even Jo work, David missed a few games, but he came on and played really hard and that’s what I expect from the players. Their job is to make it difficult to choose the starting eleven. I have a decision to make and I will make it, but always putting the team first.”