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2022 Player Preview: Sean Johnson

His performance in the 2021 postseason was elite: Is he now the best goalkeeper in MLS?

Shot stopper.
Photograph by Katie Cahalin, courtesy of NYCFC.com

Sean Johnson

Age: 32

Position: Goalkeeper

2021 League Games: 29 games, 29 starts, 2610 minutes

2021 Postseason Games: 4 games, 4 starts, 420 minutes

What went right in 2021:

The regular season saw Sean Johnson tally 2610 minutes for New York City FC, playing the full 90 minutes for every one of his 29 starts. He conceded 31 goals while keeping nine clean sheets, good enough for sixth-best in the league. Johnson was considered an above-average goalkeeper during the 2021 regular season—he didn’t blow anyone away, just met expectations without much fanfare.

However, when the playoffs came around he stepped into the spotlight and took his place as one of the stars of the team that won the MLS Cup. A clean sheet in the opening round against the Josef Martinez-led Atlanta United. A penalty save against New England Revolution’s Adam Buksa, helping seal a victory over the best-ever team in MLS regular season history. A first lift of silverware in the Eastern Conference Final against Philadelphia Union. A solid performance against Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup caped with two penalty saves that helped NYCFC win the title.

These were more than playoff heroics. Johnson’s performance in the 2021 postseason made him a club legend.

What to improve in 2022:

Ever since he started playing in the Big Apple in 2017, Johnson’s has shown little need for improvement. He has been one of the most consistent performers in the NYCFC squad year in and year out, and has quietly made a case for himself to be one of the top goalkeepers in MLS—and to consistently earn a USMNT roster spot.

That being said, there were some head-scratching moments in the 2021 regular season that could be attributed to the added pressure of captaining the NYCFC team for the first time last season. If Johnson carries his form from the playoffs into the 2022 campaign, NYCFC will not have any worries in between the posts.

What to expect in 2022:

NYCFC fans have come to expect the consistent performances Johnson almost always logs when he’s between the posts. There are really no question marks surrounding how he plays for his club.

His role on the USMNT is a different matter. Looking at recent rosters, it appears that he is third on the depth chart behind Matt Turner and Zach Steffen. With Turner transferring to Arsenal to be the backup to Aaron Ramsdale, and with Steffen already filling a backup to role Ederson, Johnson might be the only one of the three getting consistent first-team minutes. There is a path for Johnson to compete for that starting spot, but it’s a longshot. If his 2022 MLS season performances are as outstanding as what he did during the 2021 postseason, he has a chance of making the lineup card. That extra motivation can only be good for NYCFC.

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