John returns with a vengeance for playoff debut

Second-year defender goes full 90 after missing first leg

John shines

Photo Credit: 
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

FRISCO, Texas — George John was hungry for a taste of playoff
soccer. Last Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium, the second-year center back was
finally satiated as FC Dallas tied Real Salt Lake 1-1 in the Western Conference
semifinal second leg.

After missing the first leg with
a hamstring injury, John started and played the full 90 minutes as FCD eliminated RSL
from the MLS Cup Playoffs 3-2 on aggregate.

“He had a big game for us,” Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman said. “That last 25
minutes, the ball was down on our end of the field maybe 75 percent of the
time. There were crosses, second crosses and doubleheaders, a lot of things
going on."

FCD spent much of the second half
of the season without the service of John or central defensive partner Ugo
Ihemelu. John missed five games in September and October with a
strained left hamstring, while Ihemelu suffered a concussion on Aug. 8 against the Philadelphia Union and missed the next 10 matches.

“He did a great job throughout
the whole game,” FCD captain Daniel Hernandez said of John’s performance. “George
and Ugo definitely played a big part [in us holding the lead] because they were
throwing a lot of balls their way in the middle of the pitch. There were a lot
of air balls that they had to win and knock down. They definitely came up big
for us.”           

For his part, John was just glad
to be back on the field.

“It’s always fun playing in an
environment like that where there are a lot of fans,” he said. “We played well.
I felt like we held on there at the end. It was a good result for us and we’re
going to the next round.”

RSL striker Robbie Findley
tallied in the 79th minute, tying the second-leg score at one apiece and
cutting FCD's aggregate lead to a single goal.

“Yeah, you could definitely feel
the tide turn [after the goal] a little bit,” John said. “It was all about
weathering the storm at that point and making it through. I think [the defense]
did a good job. Hartman made some huge saves. We held our composure the best we

And for a player who had never
seen a single minute of playoff action, a strong performance was that much

“It felt weird not being out
there in the first leg,” John said. “Mentally and physically, it felt right to
be on the field. Nothing went wrong.”

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