Sean Johnson wasn’t sure exactly how he’d do it, but with a cool confidence under the lights at Yankee Stadium, the New York City FC keeper wouldn’t be fooled again.
After guessing the wrong way on an early penalty by Toronto FC’s Alejandro Pozuelo, Johnson made a perfect stop on Pozuelo’s second attempt to preserve a 1-1 draw for NYCFC, reminding everyone what he brings to the club after missing out against the New England Revolution over the weekend.
“I couldn’t tell you. In the moment, it was kind of instinctual to be honest,” Johnson said. “I think it’s rare that two PKs are given in a single game, and at that, two taken by the same guy. I can’t remember the last time I had that happen. A retake, maybe, OK, but two separate occasions it’s difficult. I just wanted to get a jump on it and stay as calm as possible in the situation and try to keep the team in it.”
Johnson was in a weird limbo last week, leaving NYCFC and heading across the Hudson River to train with the United States men’s national team for a friendly against Mexico at MetLife Stadium, only to return to the club without playing a minute for the national team before Saturday’s match against the Revolution. Head coach Domenec Torrent picked Brad Stuver to play in goal after a strong week of training, and City walked away with all three points in a 2-1 win.
But if there was any doubt Johnson is the anchor holding down the NYCFC’s defense, he smashed it in a big way with his penalty save against Pozuelo, who previously got the best of Johnson in a stellar MLS debut by scoring twice, including a Panenka-style penalty down the middle.
“If you get a good jump, obviously now then it’s just reading is it a low strike or is it a high strike and it was just in that range where I had one hand covered low so I just used my top hand to see it out, but it turned out to be a moment,” Johnson said. “I don’t use my top hand often, especially in those situations, but that’s just what it called for.”
A leader in his third season with NYCFC, Johnson stood up for defender Ben Sweat after a handball to award Toronto’s second penalty, albeit earning a yellow card for arguing with referee Chris Penso in the process just prior to his key save.
“He tried his best to make his play on the ball, obviously Penso went back and looked at the VAR, I guess that was the only real time he went back to look at the VAR. It turned out to be against us which was a bit unfortunate, but I’ve seen it been given both ways,” Johnson said. “I think Ben did his best to make a play on the ball with his body and then the ball popped up and they said it hit his top arm, I didn’t see the replay but that’s really all of it that I know about the moment, I have to go back and watch closer.”
Torrent was pleased with his goalie, but ever focused, he was more pleased with the result.
“Sean has experience, he saved the penalty, it is good,” said Torrent, who made sure to praise Johnson, Stuver and fellow keeper Luis Barraza as the best trio in MLS. “It is a good feeling. I am happy because in the last six games of 18 points we got 16 points.”