Saturday’s 2-0 NYCFC win over the hometown LA Galaxy wasn’t lacking for highlight reel moments. Seriously— if you haven’t witnessed the ESPN Deportes commentary for the spectacular second-half goals from Jonathan Lewis and David Villa, do something positive with your life and watch them both right now.
But you can’t win a game scoring two if you concede three. Or four or five. And there is one singular force responsible for the fact that Lewis’s goal alone was all the offense New York City FC needed to take all three points that night at the StubHub center:
His name is Sean Johnson, and he knows what you did.
For most of the game, LA was bringing the heat. They outshot the Blues 21 to 10, were generally more efficient moving the ball, and achieved the rare distinction of besting New York City in possession (54% to 46%). But most interestingly, Johnson had more saves (5) than NYCFC had shots on target (3).
For the Boys in Blue, it was indeed an atypical performance.
For Johnson, it was superhuman.
"When he played the way he played tonight, we could play another hour and look like we're not going to concede,” gaffer Patrick Vieira told reporters after the game.
While New York City struggled to pull the strings in buildup thanks to enganche-in-chief Maxi Moralez’s yellow card suspension, there was a separate subplot on the other end of the field that put even more pressure on Johnson for much of the night: back line guard dog Alexander Callens’ booking in the 36th minute.
The player remarked that he would have taken greater liberties in hounding star LA attacking man Romain Alessandrini had he not been shown yellow with nearly an hour still to play; luckily, he kept his head and the good guys finished the match with 11 men. But the prolific, quick-footed Callens is utterly essential to cutting out the danger at its most threatening point, particularly during the extended absence of batterymate Maxime Chanot. Forcing him to second-guess his defensive instincts in fear of a sending-off is sub-optimal— and forced even greater feats out of SeanJohn as a result.
"He's been a fantastic signing for us. We love him,” Vieira said. “Not just because of what he's doing on the field, it's about who he is as a person. He's a really strong character, he's a really strong personality, and this is what we wanted in our football club.”
On Saturday, Johnson’s strength wasn’t as much wanted as desperately needed. And the good news for New York City fans — and of the U.S. National Team, if the world is just — is that this Georgia peach really does have more than enough juice to get the toughest of jobs done right.