SAN JOSE, Calif. – New York City FC were able to overcome a key absence at one end of the pitch against the San Jose Earthquakes. They might not have been so successful had another important piece been missing at the opposite end, however.
After NYCFC’s David Villa-less attack delivered two goals in the first 15 minutes of the second half, goalkeeper Sean Johnson and his backline made that lead stand up at Avaya Stadium, holding firm against a Quakes side that had scored five goals over their first two matches.
Johnson made nine saves – just one shy of his personal MLS best – to help preserve NYCFC’s 2-1 victory Saturday. Five of those stops came after Maximiliano Moralez had wrested away the lead for the visitors with a 60th-minute tally. A couple were truly impressive, such as pushing aside Vako’s attempt from the edge of the area on 63 minutes or parrying Quincy Amarikwa’s close-range, if sharply angled, header in the 79th.
“A really good start from him, and even for the start of the season, all the five games, he’s been really important for us,” said NYCFC defender Anton Tinnerholm, who was forced to flip from right back to left due to Ben Sweat’s illness. “It’s really important for us that we have a goalkeeper that we trust. It’s not just the saves, it’s how he plays and talks to the defenders. He’s really important to the team.”
Johnson seemed to only get stronger after diving low to his right to punch out Magnus Eriksson’s dangerous free kick in the 56th minute. The 28-year-old said there was sense of momentum even as the saves kept piling up.
“Once you make one save, you have to put it away and move on to the next scenario,” Johnson said. “You’ve just got to really be present and be prepared to help the team. You can’t really think about the last action. … Whether it’s the first goal we gave up in the first two minutes, whether it’s the first save you make, you have to let those things go and just keep building and building and building to complete a solid 90 minutes.”
With nine saves on 10 shots, Johnson raised his save percentage to 84 percent on the season, even as his GAA actually rose as well, to 0.80.
“Individually, I don’t like to put any specific performance on a pedestal,” Johnson said. “You have to enjoy the good moments, you have to analyze the bad moments and then put them behind you and get ready to go again.
“This is an important three points, but it’s our fifth game [of the season]. It’s a long season to play. It’s a small part to achieve what we want to achieve at the end of the year.”