On one hand, FC Dallas’ Tuesday morning training session was a bit of a downer, with 2010 MLS MVP David Ferreira continuing to occupy the sidelines after injuring an Achilles last week in Florida. On the other hand, there was something on the best of times side of the ledger as Tuesday marked the first training session for one George John this year.
John returned from his six-week loan to second-division English side West Ham United on Sunday, got his physical on Monday, a day off for the team, and was ready to roll for Tuesday’s first session since FCD returned from their approximately 10-day stay in the Sunshine State.
The native of Shoreline, Washington started 31 games for Dallas last season, contributing three goals and one assist. And in his remarks to the media after Tuesday’s practice, it’s clear he was happy to be back on the pitch.
“Yeah, it’s nice. I got in Sunday night and was able to come in yesterday. Team had a day off and was able to do a physical. Here today on the training field and feel great,” John said. “I’m in Frisco, Texas and it’s beautiful. It’s good [to be back]. I’m used to these training sessions, so I’m feeling good.”
And while he didn’t get as much playing time during his time across the pond as many thought he might, especially heading into the loan, he still gained plenty of his time with the Hammers that just recently ended.
“It was an opportunity that came up last second. Everybody around me really encouraged me to do it. Got permission from the club to go and Dan Hunt and the league, I really thank them for allowing me to have this opportunity. It was great, very much an eye opener for me, spending two months there,” John said. “It’s tough to really get settled when you’re living in a hotel the whole time but still the team opened up to me. They were really kind. It was a great two months but I’m back here and focused on FC Dallas now.”
At 6-foot-3, he is far from a small fry himself. But even this native of Washington state admits he was a bit surprised at how much bigger and stronger the players were during his stay in Jolly Ole England.
“The No. 1 thing was everybody over there was taller and bigger. Here, I never really thought I was that tall of a player, but when I was over there I didn’t feel tall. But now that I’m back I think I’m kind of tall over here. The players over there are much more skilled,” John said. “I’m 24-years-old. I’ve only been a professional for three years and guys over there that are 24, they’ve been professionals for seven, eight years. I’m playing catch up, Americans are playing catch up. That’s what I learned. I feel like a young pro but over there at 24, you’re not young anymore.”
With his contract with FCD expiring at the end of the year, asking him if he and the club have even discussed the possibility of an extension seemed like a reasonable line of questioning, but it wasn’t one he was quite ready to answer.
“I have no comment on that right now. I’m with the team,” John said. “I’m here for the year, just looking forward to earning my spot back on the squad and playing some games.”
So, now the big question becomes will he be in the first 11 for Sunday’s 2012 season opener with Red Bull New York? That remains to be seen.
“He’s been training for two months with a very intense team, West Ham. They’re trying to get to the Premier League. So he did a lot of really good training. He’s come in as prepared as any of our players,” FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman said after training on Tuesday.
But when discussing his current crop of defensive personnel, the Dallas gaffer mentioned John as currently being part of his second unit in the back. A big reason for that could be that Tuesday marked essentially his first practice of the preseason but as anyone who follows this team knows, things can always quickly change, especially under Hyndman.
And what a welcome sight it would be for FCD supporters to see John and new captain Ugo Ihemelu paired up together come Sunday afternoon.
“We’ve got a good friendship. We’re really close on and off the field, so communication’s never been an issue with us,” John said of the chemistry he and Ihemelu have built over the last few seasons. “I think it won’t take us long to get back and meshing. But still, I’m jumping in at the end of preseason, so I have to earn my spot and hopefully I’ll be able to do that.”