After spending nearly a month away from NYCFC, Sean Johnson returned to training today ahead of Wednesday's match against Toronto FC.
The star goalkeeper wasn't on vacation, but jet setting around the country with the U.S. Men's National Team, who just notched an important milestone in their current Gold Cup campaign by winning their group and securing a spot in the quarterfinals. Johnson didn't appear in a match, but he spoke positively of his first national team camp since 2013, noting the progress of the team and his hopes to rejoin them later in the year.
"It was good to get acquainted with the group," said the 'keeper. "I think it was a good few weeks. Obviously, winning the group and moving onto the quarterfinals, we achieved our objective."
Not only did the U.S. squad play their way into the knockout rounds, but Johnson had the opportunity to train yet again with the United States' best goalkeepers. If you've been watching NYCFC play this season, you already know he's a member of that echelon. How does he think he showed?
"I think training was good, personally," he acknowledged. "I think the few weeks I had there, it was good. I was able to learn the staff, learn the players, and learn how they want to play when I'm in the national team.
"I'm looking forward to the year ahead, and I'm excited to be back with NYC and hopefully be back wth the U.S. at the end of the year."
As talented as Johnson is, the goalkeeper position has traditionally been one of stacked depth for the USA, and he'll have to show what he's worth with NYCFC from here on out if he wants to be on Bruce Arena's radar for the USMNT's World Cup Qualifiers this coming Fall.
Luckily for him, NYCFC's next three games come against the league's top two teams. He knows exactly what's at stake.
"The games coming up are massive for us," Johnson noted. "They're Eastern Conference teams ahead of us, I think we can't stress that enough. We've got to do a good job preparing leading up to it."
Coincidentally, Johnson's return to NYCFC comes at the same time Toronto will lose two players to the U.S. National Team. Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore, two of TFC's main contributors, have been called in by Bruce Arena to help the Yanks make a push for the title.
But even without these two big names, Johnson knows how dangerous Toronto FC can be. They've built their success around resilience this season, and Johnson realizes that depth is their strength.
"I think they had a six-game stretch this year where they rotated so many players and they still got results, so you can't overlook the fact that they have good depth with their team."
For Johnson, the key is consistency. In a match that will feature so many entrances and exits—so many changes and potential x-factors—remaining focused is always the goal. Consistency has been the theme of the goalkeeper's time so far at NYCFC. After a tumultuous last few seasons in Chicago that featured a carousel of front office, personnel, and coaching changes, the foundation Johnson has built so far with NYCFC has provided him with a platform upon which he has been able to breathe new life into his U.S. National Team goals.
For this upcoming stretch of matches, nothing changes.
"It will be important for us to just focus on our gameplan. We know how we want to play," asserted Johnson. "We know what we want to execute, so we just go in, and no matter who steps on the pitch, I think we've got to be ready to do what we're set out to do."