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Wednesday, October 20, 2010
Johnson returns; Dykstra fills in admirably

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire's goalkeeping duo of Sean Johnson and Andrew Dykstra represents one of only three MLS goalkeeper tandems to log more than 900 minutes apiece this year.

The other two combinations are the New England Revolution's Preston Burpo and Matt Reis, and the San Jose Earthquakes' Jon Busch and Joe Cannon.

Johnson missed the Fire's past three matches because of hyphema. The injury occurred during training when a shot hit Johnson in the eye from about a yard or two away, causing internal bleeding and temporary blindness for a few minutes.

But Johnson is back in training and ready to go.

"So far in training I've been 100 percent," Johnson said Wednesday. "I wanted to take the necessary precautions, to come back healthy and not have something more severe happen. So I think I did that, and I'm just looking forward to ending the season on a strong note."

Conventional wisdom would say that Johnson will be back in the net when the Fire travel to the west coast to face Chivas USA in their season finale on Saturday. Johnson held onto the No. 1 goalkeeping job for 12 straight matches before his injury. But Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos isn't ready just yet to commit to Johnson or Dykstra.

"I don't know right now who is starting because these two guys are playing well," De los Cobos said. "For me, it's a doubt, and that's good. I think that when the coaches have doubts of [their starters] because the players have good performances, that's very good for me. I need to think about this because Andrew has played three consecutive matches and has done a good job.

"Right now, I don't know. I want to be honest with you."

Dykstra and the Fire posted a win, loss and draw over the past three matches, allowing only two goals during that stretch -- both during a 2-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards on Oct. 12.

Dykstra (5-5-6) is coming off one of his best efforts of the season during a scoreless draw against D.C. United last week, making some big saves to salvage a point as the Fire offense did little to support Chicago's defense.

It was a noteworthy match for Dykstra, especially in comparison to the SuperLiga tournament when Johnson (3-6-3) eventually moved into the No. 1 slot.

"I had time to reflect and time to think about my own game and where the team's heading, and what my responsibility really means," Dykstra said. "So the past couple games stepping out, I had something to learn from and knew what to change and how to change it. I think it went well."

The Fire's goalkeeping tandem is not a platoon situation. But it has been a unique campaign considering the two goalkeepers had zero minutes of MLS experience heading into the year.

"We've both seen playing time and gained experience, and it's been good for both of us," Johnson said. "It's only going to help us in the long run, and hopefully the competition drives us to get better and lead to getting more results in the future."