Much has been said about Cristiano Ronaldo’s status as the unattached player representing one of 32 competing nations in the 2022 World Cup. But it turns out Shawn Johnson should have been counted as another such free agent.
Johnson’s 2022 club season ended in the Eastern Conference Finals as New York City FC failed to return to the MLS Cup Finals. Those who followed the league knew he was out of contract at the end of the year, but many thought the former NYCFC captain would keep the goal next season. Instead, he left New York to become one of his few regulars to join Toronto FC in free agency.
It was the first time the 33-year-old had control over where he showed his talent. In 2017, Johnson arrived in the Bronx in a complicated way. Initially, Johnson appeared to be homecoming. The Chicago Fire traded the Lilburn, Georgia native to expansion side Atlanta United seven years after his season with an allotment of $100,000. But later in the day, Atlanta sent a US Men’s National Team player to New York City on his $200,000 allotment. This is his second bargain rating for a goalkeeper of his ability, in a span comparable to the screen time of Avatar: Path of Water. .
The journey from point A to point B eventually led to better circumstances, but the ordeal was understandably frustrating.
“To say it’s gotten out of my hands is a bit of an understatement,” Johnson said. athletic At a Toronto preseason lodging in Indian Wells, California.
MLS’ current approach to free agency has given Johnson more control over his future. He explained that it was good to leave the situation in a positive way, adding:
But this offseason was different.
“Rarely do players have free choice in their careers,” Johnson said. “It was good for me. Just pick a location.”
Both teams have won the MLS Cup in the past seven seasons, but Toronto finished 2022 with the league’s second-worst record. But NYCFC’s offseason diaspora was a stark contrast to the Toronto overhaul, which bolstered a top-heavy but thin roster of talent beyond the star names.
He’s a Keeper | All For One: Moment presented by @bell@SeanJohnGK | | #TFC Live pic.twitter.com/qtG5KAYCYu
— Toronto FC (@TorontoFC) February 3, 2023
Signed in late January, Johnson joined FC Dallas defensive anchor Matt Hedges, Norwegian international centre-back Sigurd Rostedt, former Basel left-back Raul Petoletta, former club hero Victor Vazquez, He joins other new members, including striker Adama Diomande, who played under Bob Bradley. Los Angeles FC and Sturbaek.
Adjusting to the new locker room for the first time in years was not difficult for Johnson. He admitted that his long MLS career meant he was always only a few degrees apart from many players across the league. He said he “feels like 20 to 50 games” against Hedges over the years. Johnson also spent time on the US Men’s National Team with midfielder Michael Bradley.
“For me, I think it was as easy as[choosing]the best opportunity,” Johnson said. “Ultimately, it felt like the right time for me and my family to change careers, take on another challenge, and finally do it at a club with a history of (success).” was last year, but I think it was important for me to understand what the goals were and what the expectations were going forward, especially the commitment to bring in players who embody those things.”
Before his club status was sorted out, Johnson was one of 26 men to represent the United States at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar. Johnson did not appear in four games, but Greg He played a key role in the core of Burhalter’s leadership.
“I think I was in probably over 90% of the camp, so I had a pretty good understanding of the group and the staff, all the players who attended, and what we were going to make and what we were going to do. It’s a accomplishment,” Johnson said. “We achieved many of the goals we set for ourselves and it is important for us as a group to really change the way the world sees American football by finally being on the biggest stage at the World Cup. was.
“There is still a sense of level within the group and I think there is still a long way to go. I myself am 33 now and one of the few seniors on the team in the past cycle, so my ambition is is to move forward in 2026 and remain part of that group.”
Johnson turns 37 in just a few weeks until the 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by Canada, Mexico and the United States. He was one of those selected for his January camp at the USMNT, with a roster that combines the program’s veteran and younger options. Over the next three years, the landscape for the national team will undoubtedly change even more.
After US Soccer’s final winter months, including Investigation of Bahalter and the Retirement of Sports Director Ernie Stewart and USMNT General Manager Brian McBride, the January camp was headed by Anthony Hudson, an assistant on the Burhalter staff. With the federation prioritizing finding a new sports director, it is unlikely that the USMNT coach role will be permanently filled until the summer. I don’t think that should detract from the players’ sense of continuity.
“You understand the business side of things,” Johnson said. “Ultimately, as a federation, we are in a position where I believe important decisions will be made about the future of the programme. occur naturally as a group.”
Ultimately, however, all these points are meaningless if a player is not putting in quality performances at the club on a regular basis. Another reason Johnson is excited about moving to Toronto is keeping him in a high-level training regime under former US boss Bob Bradley. With participation in the CONCACAF Gold Cup and Nations League this year, we have also seen increased international involvement on the field.
“As a player, I think it’s important to focus on the environment right now. In Toronto, we’re doing what we can in the game,” added Johnson. “I can’t think about the national team if I can’t keep up with what I’m doing at the club.”
As US Soccer continues to investigate the situation surrounding Verhalter, the leaders remaining in the federation say he remains in contention to retain his post. Bringing the national team manager back into his second cycle could be a risk. Just ask Belgium, who reached the 2018 semi-finals under Roberto Martinez but crashed out of the group stage under his management in Qatar.
Still, Johnson has no problem with Burhalter returning for another term.
“For me, I think Greg was great in the group,” said Johnson. “He was always just for the group and what we set as our mission and goals and really the process we went through pushed me to be a better player and a better group. I think he did a great job during his coaching years, and it’s totally fine with Greg, after all, it’s not my decision — I’m not in that position and I’m making those decisions. I’m glad you haven’t let me down.
“Whether it’s Greg or someone else, I think it’s important to maintain the same view of what the purpose is when you step into a national team environment. That’s what matters most to me.”
Johnson has taken control of the controllable parts of his public persona, as demonstrated in the Continental Tires commercial that dropped midway through the 2022 season. Talks about the importance of staying cool under pressure while stepping through the lead-up leading up to the save.
Listing the factors for penalty saves, he includes “adjusting distractions.”
It’s not lip service selling tires. Instead, it was a mantra he seems to keep in mind both during his club career and when looking back at the World Cup.
“We just live in a time when people are critical,” Johnson said. “In the age of social media, people can say what they want, get what they want and create stories, but that’s the sport and business we signed up for. and no one can take anything away from you regarding your achievements as a player.
“There’s a reason to play for a club, there’s a reason to move, there’s a reason to be called up. Ultimately it’s up to you to really stick to the specific things that got you there. People who talk about it or have opinions about it have nothing to do with where you were or what you were doing.”
More than a goalie to the north
In addition to his accomplishments on the field and his role as an otherwise veteran mentor, there’s another hat that Johnson wears. Black player for change An advocacy nonprofit founded in 2020 in the wake of the killing of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer. As the group’s third anniversary approaches, Johnson feels there has been visible progress across the league as a result of the BPC’s presence.
“I think there’s a lot more recognition and implementation going on in the actual league. It’s a conversation that’s going on not just between committees, players and clubs, but also between owner groups and management.” Johnson said. “I think it’s becoming more of a staple, something that’s going to be long-term. It was the whole purpose: don’t let the conversation die.”
Johnson also expressed excitement about working closely with BPC co-founder Justin Morrow. From 2010 he left MLS until 2021. Morrow spent eight years in Toronto before retiring to serve as the club’s technical development manager while maintaining BPC leadership.
Overall, Johnson has become one of the most notable black players in the US men’s player pool. In 2021, he won the MLS Cup, made the World Cup roster, and had a bigger presence in advertising, which helped him gain recognition with national audiences. This is a rare trait for an MLS goalkeeper.
It’s a difference he doesn’t take lightly. Having worked in New York City, he is looking forward to doing the same in his new hometown of Toronto.
“I think more than anything, especially on the field, it’s going to be kind of an inspiration for the next generation, an inspiration for people playing aggressively,” Johnson said. teeth It’s possible to reach these levels and achieve these things, whether it’s a championship, a league win or a World Cup. ”
(Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)