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Sean Johnson aims to lead NYCFC on and off the field as new club captain

Sean Johnson of New York City FC celebrates

Sean Johnson of New York City FC celebrates in the first half against UANL Tigres during Leg 1 of the quarterfinals during a CONCACAF Champions League match at Red Bull Arena on March 11, 2021 in Harrison, New Jersey. Credit: Getty Images/Elsa

Sean Johnson has been an effective leader in the back for New York City FC since joining the club in 2017. Now he gets the title and fancy armband to go with it.

The 31-year-old goalkeeper was named the third captain in club history on Wednesday, filling a role vacated after the trade of Alex Ring to expansion Austin FC over the offseason.

Entering his fifth season with the club and wearing the armband during multiple preseason matches, Johnson was a clear front-runner to captain a club looking to build on a series of playoff appearances.

"I think as a goalkeeper you have some of the responsibilities, the communication, being a leader, being a presence," Johnson said. "To be honest, I think for me, not much is going to change, it's just becoming basically a mainstay for the team. Someone who's dependable, someone who's just honest and always looking out for the best interest of the guys."

Johnson is the first American to serve as NYCFC captain, a position first held by Spanish superstar David Villa in 2015-18 and then by Finland’s Ring — who coincidentally was named Austin FC’s first captain later Wednesday — the last two seasons. Johnson has been one of NYCFC’s top performers in recent years and has a reputation as one of MLS’ best keepers on the field. With his new role, however, Johnson made it clear his job extends off the pitch.

"Certainly we focus about what's happening on the field, but I think off the field is just as important, so I think it's just making sure that we take care of those responsibilities, and do it in a way that's honorable and respectful and always looking out for the best interests of the group."

Conversations with head coach Ronny Deila, Johnson said, were important in determining what type of leader the new captain wants to be for his teammates.

"We talked about being a captain for this team, being a role model, a leader, somebody who communicates well, both on and off the field, and also kind of being a bridge from the locker room to Ronny is important," Johnson said. "But ultimately just looking out for the best interest of the group and making sure that I do what I can to drive this group forward, to win games to keep the group jelled together and continue moving forward towards our goals."

The first test of Johnson’s captaincy comes Saturday when NYCFC opens its seventh season on the road against DC United, a chance to reverse the club’s recent trend of poor stretches to begin the season.

"A strong start is massively important for this group," said Johnson. "Last year presented its own challenges with MLS is Back. This year having a proper preseason together, being able to jell and really work on the things that we need to prepare for a full season, I think now just putting all those things together, you start off on the right foot, I think it sets the tone for a good year."

New York Sports