June 29, 2012
ALL IN A DAYS WORK
Johnson comes up big in Fire win
KANSAS CITY, Kan.---It would be hard for Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson to get a better workout than the one he got Friday night at Livestrong Sporting Park in a 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City.
Johnson held off a barrage of late Sporting Kansas City shots to make Marco Pappa's goal stand, as the Fire won their third straight game.
"I think you just try to do your job and make the saves necessary to keep your team in the game," said Johnson who made five saves to earn his second shutout of the season.
"Tonight was one of those nights where I had to make a few more saves than normal but for the first 90 minutes I thought the guys were doing a wonderful job. You know, it was hot out there and under the tough conditions we were still able to stick to our game plan. Hats off to KC. They didn’t stop for a full 90 minutes. They are a fit team and they kept coming and we were able to get the job done."
After a slow and lackluster performance by both teams in the first half, Pappa gave the Fire the lead in the 58th minute on a brilliant breakaway. Kansas City’s CJ Sapong lofted a ball into the area, where Fire defender Dan Gargan cleared it back out to Pappa near midfield. Pappa made a dash upfield then dished off to Chris Rolfe on the left side. Rolfe gave the ball back to Pappa for a clinical finish past Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen from inside the penalty area.
"I tried to make the right decision to do the right play and I am happy that I was able to score the goal after receiving the pass," said Pappa.
With the first goal on the board, the pace of the game picked up on both sides, with Kansas City especially pressuring the Fire defense looking for the equalizer. And although Johnson was often left without cover by his backline, he was up to the task.
"We didn’t give up any goals," said Johnson. "There were a few times they got in dangerous spots and we have to get back and work on some things but on the night we did what’s necessary to get three points and the shutout is a plus as well. First and foremost three points which we needed against a team in our conference and the shutout for the team. I think we’ve been due for a long time and the guys deserve it. They have worked their balls off for countless games now, finally we get what we deserve."
In the 68th minute, Graham Zusi lofted a perfect free kick into the six-yard box that appeared destined for the head of a wide open Kai Kamara, but Johnson punched the ball away before any damage could be done. Just three minutes later, Johnson grabbed Teal Bunbury’s header out of the air.
The holes in the Fire defense continued to open, but Sporting could not take advantage. In the 75th minute, Zusi played a ball from the right side across a wide open six yard box, but no one was there to poke the ball into the open net.
Johnson came up with his best save of the game in the 76th minute, when Kamara snapped a header down, and the 6-4 goalkeeper went full stretch to get his hand on it. Kamara had another header cleared off the line by second half sub Hunter Jumper in the 80th minute. And, with time running down, the Fire, and especially Johnson, withstood a wild barrage.
In the 92nd minute, Bunbury got on the end of a cross going toward the right of the penalty area. He managed to spin and volley it across his body, narrowly missing the opposite post. Less than a minute later, Soony Saad got a ball back from Chance Myers and fired a point blank shot from inside the 18 that sent Johnson diving to stop.
The win improves to Fire to 8-5-3, 27 points, while Sporting, playing their fifth game in 14 days, lost for the second straight time to fall to 9-5-2, 29 pts.
"There is always room for improvement, but we’ll enjoy this and get back to work," said Johnson. "We have a quick turnaround game on Tuesday (at Houston) against a good team in another hot place. We have to refocus now and get back to work."