Sean Johnson called up to US national team

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Sean Johnson called up to US national team

Jeremy Mikula
CSNChicago.com

Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was called up to the U.S. national team Monday when head coach Jurgen Klinsmann released his 20-player squad for Wednesdays friendly with Russia.

Johnson, 23, has two previous caps with the U.S. and is available for selection due to the Fires elimination from the MLS Cup playoffs on Oct. 31.

There was obvious disappointed that we didnt make it further in the playoffs but Im looking forward now, Johnson told the Fires official website. Its a positive thing to be in with this group again and I think its an important thing for us. Im excited to be back with the guys again and looking forward to the game against Russia.

Johnson is one of three MLS players called up to the squad, joining Chivas USAs Juan Agudelo and Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando. Meanwhile, Russia is currently ranked No. 9 in the world.

We ask for these games because they are big learning curves for us, Klinsmann said in a statement. We need to measure ourselves against the best teams out there and build even more confidence. We want to close the year in a very positive way and then go into a busy 2013 that includes World Cup qualifying, the Gold Cup and some exciting friendlies.

The U.S. will play Russia in Krasnodar at 9 a.m. CT on Wednesday.

Red Stars enter NWSL semifinals with chip on shoulder

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Dan Bartel, ISI Photos

Red Stars enter NWSL semifinals with chip on shoulder

Just over a year ago the Chicago Red Stars hosted a National Women’s Soccer League semifinal and had high expectations for a playoff run.

However, it all came crashing down quickly in a 3-0 loss at Toyota Park in which visiting FC Kansas City scored all three goals in the first 25 minutes. Kansas City went on to win the league title and the Red Stars were left to wonder what the heck just happened.

Now, the Red Stars have a chance at redemption in a return to the NWSL semifinals. The Red Stars will visit the Washington Spirit on Friday.

“I’m personally really excited to play on Friday, to be back in the semifinals the year after kind of a hard loss last season against Kansas City,” Red Stars forward Christen Press said. “I think that the girls that were here last year we kind of have a chip on our shoulder about that match and how it went down. I think that’s helped motivate us to get back.”

After finishing third in the NWSL regular season the Red Stars have to go on the road in this year’s semifinal. The Spirit and Red Stars are the only two teams to return from the 2015 playoffs and both lost 3-0 in the semifinals so the redemption factor goes both ways.

The Red Stars are well aware of what happened last year, but coach Rory Dames doesn’t expect a repeat.

“I expect the game to not be over 20 minutes in,” Dames said. “Different team, different year.”

[SHOP: Pick up a national team jersey t-shirt of Red Stars defender Julie Johnston]

This year’s Red Stars racked up plenty of individual accolades in getting back to the playoffs. Press is one of five finalists for league MVP, Julie Johnston and Arin Gilliland are Defender of the Year finalists and Alyssa Naeher is up for Goalkeeper of the Year.

A win would push the Red Stars into the club’s first NWSL final in the NWSL’s fourth season. Last year’s semifinal was the first playoff appearance for the Red Stars.

The Red Stars just beat the Spirit on Saturday 3-1 in the regular season finale at Toyota Park. Back on July 9 the Spirit won 2-0 at the Maryland SoccerPlex, host site of Friday’s semifinal.

“We played them at (their) home earlier in the season and it didn’t end the way we wanted,” said midfielder Courtney Raetzman, who graduated from Conant High School in Hoffman Estates. “But I think we showed that we can play with them and as our game just showed, we beat them and we probably didn’t even perform to our absolute best so I’m really excited going into this next game.”

Dames said playing back-to-back games against a playoff opponent “isn’t ideal” in terms of coaching but it’s also a confidence boost to have a win heading into the playoffs.

“I think it’s a good and a bad thing because we both have extra video on each other, on playing each other specifically,” midfielder Taylor Comeau said. “We have a couple things that we definitely want to clean up and we’ll rewatch the film and clean up just what we think we need to and hopefully have a better performance in the next game.”

The winner of Friday’s semifinal will play in the NWSL final in Houston’s BBVA Compass Stadium on Oct. 9.

Fire shut out in loss at streaking Seattle

Fire shut out in loss at streaking Seattle

The Chicago Fire dropped another road game Wednesday night.

The Seattle Sounders topped the Fire 1-0 behind a first-half goal from Chad Marshall. It is the Fire’s 12th road loss in 15 matches this season.

Marshall headed in an Andreas Ivanschitz corner kick in the 24th minute for the game’s only goal. Marshall, one of Seattle’s best targets on set pieces, was all alone just outside the six-yard box.

Seattle had more than 70 percent of the possession in the first half. The Fire pushed forward more frequently in the second half, but could not find the tying goal. David Arshakyan had a pair of good looks in the box late, but couldn't put one away.

The loss at Seattle (12-13-5, 41 points), coupled with other results earlier on Wednesday, means the Fire (6-15-9, 27 points) are now officially eliminated from playoff contention. The Fire are the first team to be eliminated.

The shutout snapped a streak of 10 straight MLS matches in which the Fire had scored.

Midfielder John Goossens returned to action after missing the last two matches with a back injury. He replaced Arturo Alvarez in the 65th minute.

[SHOP: Get a Fire home jersey right here]

David Accam celebrated his 26th birthday on Wednesday. He was also called up to Ghana’s national team on the day. Ghana will host Uganda in a World Cup qualifier on Oct. 7 and play at South Africa on Oct. 11.

There are four games left in the Fire’s season, beginning with the finale of this three-game road trip Saturday at Columbus.