Johnson and Polster Earn National Team Call-Ups

Photo by Derik Hamilton - USA TODAY Sports

Photo by Derik Hamilton – USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire will have to make do without goalkeeper Sean Johnson and midfielder Matt Polster in early September, as the two have recently been called up for the United States Men’s National Team. Polster was selected for the upcoming U-23 training camp in Manchester, England, while Johnson was called back to the senior team for an up-coming friendly against Brazil.

Sean Johnson hasn’t had the best season overall, but his recent form was enough to grab the attention of U.S. manager Jurgen Klinsmann. His inspired performance from August 16 against the Philadelphia Union was reason enough to give the 26-year-old a chance to play on the international level. Perhaps the next generation of U.S. goalies could finally be upon us.

Or maybe it’s not. Tim Howard will also be back with the national team for the first time since last summer’s World Cup in Brazil. It hasn’t been easy for ‘keepers waiting their turn behind Tim Howard, and it seems they might have to wait a bit longer. For nearly a decade, Howard’s been the unquestionable rock anchoring the back for team USA. Brad Guzan has been starting for the US in goal in Howard’s absence, but it still appears to be Howard’s position to lose for now. Regardless of who’s starting, it’s promising for Sean Johnson to be back on the roster at all.

As for Matt Polster, it’s a matter of getting his feet wet. The rookie midfielder has earned the attention of U-23 coach Andi Herzog, who recently selected Polster to participate in his squad’s upcoming training camp. Polster will be competing for a final roster spot in the upcoming friendlies against England and Quatar, and ultimately for Olympic qualifiers later this year. And if he’s really dreaming big, he could make an impression for the Olympic squad next year in Rio de Janeiro, but first things first.

Polster will have some stiff competition in the preliminary roster, but he has the advantage of being one of the only true defensive midfielders on the team. It’s the same position that’s given him a starting job nearly every week for the Chicago Fire, though recently he’s been asked to take the place of Lovel Palmer at right back, while fellow rookie Michael Stephens has filled in at holding midfield for the Fire.

More absences for Chicago

It’s been a cross to bear all season for the Fire, and the burden of absences will show itself once again for this club as it sends off Johnson and Ploster. Michael Stephens has done more than his share at defensive midfield recently; something Polster has done all year until now. With a hard-working Razvan Cocis alongside Stevens, I’m confident in the midfield’s ability going forward without Polster.

I think the bigger question is what happens to an already inconsistent back four. Eric Gehrig and Jeff Larentowicz have been a pretty solid combo in the middle, but who replaces Polster, a true midfielder, who’s been playing right back recently? Adaílton is still hurt and Lovel Palmer lacks the defensive grit that Polster has had in 2015. Nevertheless, Palmer will likely lineup at right back on Saturday against Montreal.

Johnson, on the other hand, won’t be leaving until after Saturday’s match. I’m not as concerned when it comes to goalkeeper, as veteran Jon Busch is never a bad option for a backup. Though I do hate to see Sean Johnson go in the highlight-worthy state he seems to be in lately. But his recent form is the reason for the national call-up, so let’s rejoice for the Milk Man, and maybe he’ll even get some minutes against Brazil in the upcoming friendly in Foxborough, Mass., on September 8 at 7 p.m. CT.