Toronto FC signs new No. 1 goalkeeper in U.S. international Sean Johnson

Toronto FC landed its new goalkeeper Friday, signing U.S. international Sean Johnson through 2024.

33-year-old had career-high 14 clean sheets with NYCFC last year

New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson lifts up his arms and celebrates his team's victory over CF Montreal in the Eastern Conference semifinals MLS action.
New York City FC goalkeeper Sean Johnson celebrates his team's victory over CF Montreal in the Eastern Conference semifinals MLS action in Montreal on Sunday, Oct. 23, 2022. (Paul Chiasson/The Canadian Press)

Toronto FC filled its gaping hole in goal Friday, signing U.S. international Sean Johnson through 2024.

The 33-year-old free agent, who spent the last six seasons with New York City FC, is entering his 14th season in Major League Soccer. He arrives at the top of his game, having played all 34 regular-season matches for NYCFC last year with a career-high 14 clean sheets while earning his first MLS all-star selection.

The six-foot-three 216-pounder has made 400 appearances for New York and the Chicago Fire in all competitions since entering the league in 2010.

"Sean is among the top goalkeepers in MLS and we are thrilled he has chosen Toronto FC as his new club," Toronto president Bill Manning said in a statement. "Sean is a true leader on and off the field, and his experience, winning mentality and shot-blocking ability will help us solidify our defence."

Johnson has won 10 caps for the U.S and was part of the American squad team at the recent World Cup in Qatar. He was on the bench for the Americans' 2-1 loss to Serbia on Wednesday in Los Angeles.

The U.S. hosts Colombia on Saturday in Carson, Calif.

Upgrading the goalkeeper position became a priority after Toronto conceded 66 goals last season, tying a franchise worst. Alex Bono and Quentin Westberg, who split the starting duties the last four years have since moved on — Bono to D.C. United and Westberg to Atlanta United.

"Sean has established himself as one of the best goalkeepers in MLS, given his club and international career," said Bob Bradley, Toronto's head coach and sporting director. "Sean continues to demonstrate his elite shot-stopping ability, athleticism and decision-making in important moments and the biggest games."

TFC has 29-year-old Greg Ranjitsingh, last year's third-stringer, and 22-year-old Tomas Romero as backups.

Johnson was acquired using targeted allocation money, which can be used to sign a new player provided his salary and acquisition costs are more than the maximum salary budget charge which was $612,500 US last season.

Given Johnson was a free agent, there was no acquisition cost this time.

Johnson made $550,000 US in 2022, compared to $557,000 for Bono and $313,585 for Westberg.

Latest captain

Johnson is the second former club captain to join TFC in the off-season. Veteran centre back Matt Hedges, who signed as a free agent in December, served as FC Dallas skipper for eight seasons.

Italian star Lorenzo Insigne captained Napoli before joining Toronto last July. Midfielder Michael Bradley, the son of Bob Bradley, is TFC's longtime skipper.

Johnson has history with Toronto.

Alejandro Pozuelo beat him with a 90th-minute penalty to give Toronto a dramatic 2-1 victory over New York City FC in the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinal.

Johnson has made 370 regular-season and playoff appearances in MLS since being drafted in the fourth round (51st overall) of the 2010 MLS SuperDraft by the Chicago Fire as a Generation Adidas player.

It was a savvy pick. Johnson made 176 regular-season starts over his seven years in Chicago, making 548 saves and logging 36 shutouts with a 1.42 goals against average.

But he saw less playing time in 2016 under new head coach Veljko Paunovic as Chicago finished last in the league.

Johnson took a 767-minute shutout streak for the U.S. into the World Cup in Qatar, having conceded just one goal during his international career. That came eight minutes into his international debut — a 1-1 draw with Chile in January 2011 in Carson, Calif.

The native of Lilburn, Ga., whose parents are both of Jamaican descent, spent two years at the University of Central Florida, during which time he played for the U.S. under-20 team.

He serves on the executive board of MLS Black Players for Change.

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