D.C. United 4, Chicago 2: Andy Najar Finds New Position, Sean Johnson Might Want to Do the Same

Okay, that’s a little harsh, we admit. And we like Johnson: He’s a great shot-stopper, and he’s got a voice like James Earl Jones to boot. But man, has he shown a scary tendency for killer mental errors.

He made two in Chicago’s 4-2 loss to D.C. United last night, in a game that also featured United youngster Andy Najar’s debut at right back, which went as well as Johnson’s night went poorly.

Take a look:

Let’s review: In the 19th minute, Johnson—and his defenders—got lazy on a shot to the far post from Chris Pontius, letting it roll through the six-yard box untouched—until Dwayne De Rosario popped up to punch it in for the game’s first goal.

Then in the waning moments—in a play reminiscent of his mistake against El Salvador in Olympic qualifying last March (more on that shortly)—Johnson flailed at a weak shot from Long Tan, allowing it to dribble through his grasp and in for the game-killing fourth goal.

Unfortunately for Johnson, and the U.S. goalkeeping depth chart, these lapses are not isolated incidents. The agile, 6-4 ’keeper has battled mental bugaboos since (at least) the spring of 2011, when a crisis of confidence and a series of elementary mistakes got him benched for several weeks.

A year later he made that disastrous error against El Salvador in Olympic qualifying, aka the Nightmare in Nashville, aka the 3-3 Tie that Sunk U.S. Olympic Hopes and So Much More. See it here.

That Robert Green-esque blunder brought the bridge to London falling down on the U.S. team’s head, and with it a massive opportunity to boost the profile of the game, and Major League Soccer, through the league’s broadcast partnership with NBC, which also televised the Games.

Johnson did bounce back from that gaffe during the 2012 MLS season, putting together a string of solid performances and even one spectacular, 10-save thriller against San Jose in late July. And it was almost enough to erase the memory of Nashville. Until last night.

On the bright side of last night’s young-player ledger, D.C.’s 19-year-old Home Grown player Najar was a revelation in his new role, getting forward dangerously, creating chances, and defending pretty well, too.

United’s win pulled them to within a point of Chicago and Houston in the crowded East standings, where six points separate fifth from first.