Johnson makes most of SuperLiga start

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Following the 2010 MLS SuperDraft, Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson probably was not expecting too many game-time opportunities at the outset.

Before the season started, the Fire had veteran Jon Busch at the helm and Andrew Dykstra returning. But Busch was released, and Dykstra and Johnson were given the task of shouldering the load in the net, with no MLS experience between the two keepers.

"This pressure is good at an early age, to be in a position to step up when the team needs me," Johnson said. "Whether it is as starting keeper in SuperLiga, being the backup -- either role -- I think at my age it's very beneficial to my career. For some people being that young, maybe they don't have those opportunities, but I'm starting to gain that experience."

The Fire's third-round selection still has not played in an MLS match, but the recent SuperLiga gave him a forum to play against a league team in the New England Revolution. Then, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos sent Johnson back out there for Chicago's SuperLiga finale and he posted a 1-0 shutout against Pumas UNAM.

"It was good to get a lot of experience and get more comfortable," Johnson said. "I wish we did better in SuperLiga, but I think we ended it on a good note."

The 6-foot-3, 21-year-old native of Atlanta excelled in soccer and basketball during his high school days. His brother Jarrett played basketball in Greece. But Sean decided soccer was his ultimate passion, moving ahead to his collegiate career at the University of Central Florida.

"I think it was just my love for the game," Johnson said of his decision to choose soccer. "Early on, ever since I could walk, I kicked a ball around. Basketball was fun, but once I realized that my heart was into soccer, I put all of my energy into that."

Johnson started for Central Florida in 2007 and 2008, trained with the U.S. U-20 National Team for the U-20 World Cup, and left school early when he was named to the 2010 Generation adidas class.

"I think the decision to leave was a well thought out decision, and it was best for my family to leave school early," Johnson said. "Fortunately through Generation adidas, now I can go back and finish school and have the ability to get my degree."

Johnson's take of the professional learning process is pretty similar to what Dykstra has pinpointed in the past, and that is being a solid communicator.

"Communication is the biggest thing," Johnson said. "Early on in college, it is a more quiet environment where it's easier to get things done the way you want without really having to be too vocal. At the professional level, with fans screaming and not being able to hear that well, you just have to be that much more vocal in games to direct your communication. It's also important to be spot-on with your distribution, because a giveaway at this level will cost you a goal."

It is difficult to say if his Johnson's recent success will translate into some game time from a league standpoint as he awaits his chance behind Dykstra. But Johnson certainly has the backing of his teammates if that opportunity knocks.

"He's done very well," forward Brian McBride said following the Fire's win over Pumas. "The talent he has is there. We see it every day in practice, and he's done very well in these games."