Sean Johnson on the difficult journey to NYCFC's first ever MLS Cup appearance

New York City FC captain Sean Johnson led his side to the 2021 MLS final for the first time ever
New York City FC captain Sean Johnson led his side to the 2021 MLS final for the first time ever / Ira L. Black - Corbis/GettyImages

New York City FC captain and goalkeeper Sean Johnson is set to lead the Eastern Conference side into their first ever Major League Soccer Cup appearance on Saturday against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. 

Johnson admitted this is a long time coming after failing to reach the final on five consecutive occasions, but now, against all odds, NYCFC will play for the ultimate trophy. 

“It feels special to be the first to get to this point. It means so much to the club, now being here for five years. Now captaining the team, so many new experiences this season that I wouldn't trade for anything. But, there's just been a standard and an expectation of this club for success over the years and waiting this long, but finally in the position to achieve that," Johnson said exclusively to 90min.

The 2021 playoff road has not been easy for the Eastern Conference side, who kicked off the postseason as the number four seed. 

“So many situations, it feels like we've been through just about every situation in the playoffs. You know, being at home, being on the road, being up in the game, giving up late leads coming back from goal scored against, penalty shootout in New England,” Johnson recalled.

NYCFC first defeated giants Atlanta United before going on to edge out Supporters Shield winners New England Revolution on penalties and overcoming an early lead by the Philadelphia Union to earn their final spot. 

“You name it, this team has been through it and triumphed. So, I think, you know, when we talk about the experiences, you can only gain those experiences by being in the moment, by being in those environments. And so, I'm happy this team has gone through that. But all things said, we've found a way to win those games, which is the most important thing, which is why we're playing for a championship on Saturday.”

Johnson admitted the adversities faced throughout the season impacted the mindset of each player going into the Final. The goalkeeper added that the team feels proud of their accomplishments, standing as underdogs to achieve this moment.

"I think that's a testament to the kind of players that we have, the mentality that we've had every single game, I think we approach it as just the next step in getting to where we want to go. And regardless of the path and how we've gotten here, this is how it was going to have to happen for us to win an MLS Cup. So, it's great to have a group of guys that's fearless that can go into any environment and adapt. Whatever is thrown at us we deal with and we keep going.”

“And you know, there was a patch in there where we didn't, you know, win a game, I think for maybe eight or nine games, we had to figure things out. But it wasn't easy. To get to this point isn't easy. And I think we can be proud of the effort that we've put in so far and the mentality that we had.”