TRANSFER TRACKER STATUS: Signing
Toronto FC’s search for a starting goalkeeper has ended with one of MLS’s top free agents: US men’s national team veteran Sean Johnson.
The Reds announced Friday they’ve signed the 33-year-old, who had been New York City FC’s captain and served as a USMNT backup at the 2022 FIFA World Cup. He joins through the 2024 MLS season using Targeted Allocation Money (TAM).
Johnson brings vast experience to the Reds, having played in 355 regular-season games since entering the league via the 2010 MLS SuperDraft presented by adidas. He spent 2010-16 with Chicago Fire FC, then 2017-22 with NYCFC.
"Sean has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, given his club and international career," Toronto head coach and sporting director Bob Bradley said in a release. "Sean continues to demonstrate his elite shot-stopping ability, athleticism, and decision-making in important moments and the biggest games."
Change in Toronto
This winter, Toronto identified goalkeeper as a position they were looking to upgrade after parting ways with Quentin Westberg and Alex Bono. That pair joined Atlanta United and D.C. United, respectively, in prior weeks.
And in Johnson, Toronto have acquired one of MLS’s best goalkeepers from the past few seasons. He was named MLS Cup MVP presented by Audi as NYCFC lifted their first-ever trophy in 2021, plus was named an MLS All-Star in 2022.
Johnson, who has 10 USMNT appearances, is Toronto’s third major free-agent signing this winter after they added center back Matt Hedges (ex-FC Dallas) and brought back midfielder Jonathan Osorio (Toronto’s all-time appearance leader). He also sustains a veteran-minded trend to the Reds’ offseason roster-building strategy.
"I want you to know I'll cherish every moment with this organization," Johnson wrote in a post on NYCFC's website. "My time in New York has come to an end, but the memories we made will live on eternally."
NYCFC's next steps
For NYCFC, the news is a serious loss considering the significant role Johnson played and the broader trend around their roster. Johnston is NYCFC’s all-time leader in matches played (206), and the Cityzens have watched the following pieces (among others) of their massively successful core exit this winter:
- Center back Alex Callens - free to LaLiga’s Girona FC
- Attacking midfielder Maxi Moralez - transfer to Argentina’s Racing Club
- Right back Anton Tinnerholm - free to Sweden’s Malmo FF
- Striker Héber - trade to Seattle Sounders FC
With Johnson’s departure, NYCFC’s starting goalkeeper may become former US youth international Matt Freese. He joined later Friday in a trade from the Philadelphia Union, while Luis Barraza has been Johnson’s backup. The Cityzens also have Cody Mizell, though all three are light on first-team MLS experience.
"Sean has given everything to this club since he has arrived, but we understand his decision to take on a new challenge and to do what he feels is best for him and his family," NYCFC sporting director David Lee said in a release. "We wish him nothing but the best in the next stage of his career."
Toronto, MLS Cup 2017 champions, are hoping their 2023 campaign snaps a two-year absence from the Audi MLS Cup Playoffs. They also still have an open Designated Player spot to fill around Italian international forwards Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Bernardeschi.
Johnson will first meet his old team on April 29 with TFC welcome NYCFC to BMO Field.
READ MORE: MLS Transfer Tracker presented by Avant