Fire star cashes in on Gold Cup detour

For RedEye

After being away from his Fire teammates the past month, star goalkeeper Sean Johnson had a simple message for them.

"I'm excited to get back with the team," he said.

He's bringing some hardware with him. Johnson was the backup goalkeeper for the U.S. men's national team that hoisted the Gold Cup. The Americans beat Panama 1-0 on Sunday at Soldier Field to seal their 11th win in a row.

"You can't ask for anything more than a win, a gold medal," he said. "I'm excited to be a part of this team."

While he's the star out at Toyota Park, Johnson took a backseat on the national team. Johnson saw limited action while Nick Rimando, a veteran 10 years his senior, was in the spotlight.

"He's a great pro," Johnson said of Rimando. "We work well together. Hopefully going forward we can take this as a prime example of what teamwork can do. We're all committed to the cause."

Johnson did make his one appearance in the Gold Cup count. He made two saves in shutting out Costa Rica 1-0 in pool play July 16, showing signs of why many view him as a rising star on the national stage.

"This whole year has been exciting, and to win a Gold Cup is fantastic," he said.

In his absence, the Fire have played steady but not spectacular ball, going 2-2-1 with backup Paolo Tornaghi holding down the fort in Johnson's absence. The team remains two games out of the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference through 20 games.

Johnson said he's been keeping tabs on his team and hopes some of the momentum generated by the national team carries over to the Fire.

"We're all still on the same page," he said. "They've been doing a fantastic job the past couple games. I'm excited to join them hopefully make the playoffs."

Matt Lindner is a RedEye special contributor.

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