Shutouts have been hard come by throughout a difficult debut season for head coach Frank Yallop, but the manner in which the team’s second clean sheet was achieved bodes well for a late charge at the playoff positions.
“It’s not been the easiest season for us,” Johnson said during a postgame television interview on Chicago station WPWR My 50. “We’ve tied a lot of games, we’ve been through ups and downs, but tonight I’m really proud of the back four and what they did. They stuck together, played well, communicated well and we were able to get the shutout, and that was huge.”
Joint top-scorer Quincy Amarikwa opened the scoring in typically emphatic style when he latched onto Mike Magee’s superbly weighted lofted through ball in the third minute to give the Fire a surprise lead they would never relinquish.
The Fire played second fiddle in the possession stakes - 62.5 percent to 37.5 - and trailed 24-11 in shots taken. But despite chances for both sides, the Fire looked destined to hold out for a rare win until left back Gonzalo Segares fouled Jerry Bengtson in the area six minutes from time.
At that point it looked like the Fire’s brave defensive unity might be rewarded with what would have been their 11th tie of the season, but the determined Johnson had other ideas.
Johnson guessed right and pushed away Chris Tierney’s penalty with a firm right-handed save to deny the hosts and claim all three points for the Fire. It was the 21st time Johnson has faced a PK in his career, and sixth time the shooer has come up empty.
“In any game, I think it’s just instinct, you get in the situation and you just roll with it,” Johnson told My50. “I was able to get a read and get a good push on it, and a fortunate bounce off the post and I was able to keep it out.”
Said Amarikwa: “We expect our ’keepers to save everything they are supposed to and save one or two a game that they are not, and Sean showed his class tonight and helped solidify the three points on the road.”
The victory pushed the Fire into eighth in the Eastern Conference, just four points behind the New York Red Bulls and a playoff berth.