HAMMOCK: Fire show local future

Tuesday night's victory over Mexican side Pumas UNAM probably didn't mean much to most Chicago Fire fans, who enjoyed a victory but knew the game was simply the finish to a disappointing early elimination from the SuperLiga competition.

The win meant a little more for the Major League Soccer franchise's rookie goalie, Sean Johnson, and his fans here in Gwinnett.

The Brookwood grad made three saves in the 1-0 win, earning his first pro victory and first pro shutout. He also started the team's previous game last week, a 1-0 loss to the New England Revolution.

Johnson is just starting to show the vast potential that made him a Generation Adidas signee by MLS, which offers grants for future education to promising players who leave school early -- as Johnson did from Central Florida. His skill set -- an athletic basketball player at Brookwood, he stands 6-foot-4, 220 pounds -- makes him a rising star at goalkeeper for the U.S. youth national teams. Don't be surprised to see him with the full national team in the future for a U.S. team with aging goalies.

"(Johnson's) done very well," Fire forward and veteran U.S. National Team player Brian McBride told the Chicago Daily Herald. "He's progressed throughout the season. The talent he has is there. We see it every day in practice and he's done very well in these games."

And Johnson is just part of a rising young group of Gwinnett soccer players who have the potential to make impacts at the MLS and national team levels. One of those guys is his Fire teammate and fellow rookie Steven Kinney.

The Norcross grad has flashed great potential as a defender, scoring his first pro goal in last week's loss to Mexico's Monarcas Morelia. Just 22, Kinney was a third-round pick out of Elon in last year's MLS SuperDraft.

They join Parkview grad Josh Wolff, a veteran of two World Cups and 232 MLS games, as Gwinnett's current MLS players. Expect that number to grow in the future behind youngsters like Jack Falle of Parkview, Walker Zimmerman of Brookwood, Dominic Bonilla of Collins Hill and Snellville's Andrew Wolverton, who plays at St. Pius. Those kids aren't done with high school, but they represent the next wave of Gwinnett talent. It shouldn't be long before they're making pro memories like Johnson.