George John embracing leadership role on FC Dallas
FC Dallas and George John ended a year of uncertainty in December when the two parties agreed to a multi-year contract, keeping the big defender as a cornerstone of Schellas Hyndman’s defense for years to come.
And thank goodness they did.
The 26-year-old has been arguably FCD’s best player through the first half of this season and became the 13th player in franchise history to make his 100th start for the club on May 25 against San Jose.
“George [John] is the perfect example of going to college, getting an education and then getting an opportunity to go into MLS and make a career out of it,” said Schellas Hyndman. “He’s been absolutely great and probably three or four weeks don’t go by without another club expressing interest in him and it’s just like, ‘No, stop calling.’”
It’s tough to blame teams around the league and around the globe for trying. With his new-found stability, John has stepped his game up to a new level in 2013, one of the biggest reasons FCD remains undefeated at home and at the top of MLS 14 games into the season.
“It’s been great,” said John. “Obviously, there were a lot of things up in the air throughout last season and I just felt like this is the best fit for me. I wanted to be here. I chose to be here and Fernando [Clavijo] is a great technical director. I’ve known Schellas my whole career, he’s been a great coach for me and the whole ownership group has been great. It definitely was the best choice and I couldn’t be happier with it.”
It’s undeniable that FC Dallas is a different team with John on the field, and the numbers back it up. While the sample size is small, in the 900 minutes John has played for FCD this season, the team's goals against average is a miniscule 0.7, including a scoreless streak of 692 minutes in all competitions that was only just snapped against Colorado in last weekend’s game. Perhaps most importantly, Dallas’ record is 7-1-1 in games that John has played a full 90 minutes this year.
“He’s hard to beat in the air, he’s a great team leader and he’s one of those players that makes other players better,” said Hyndman. “You don’t realize how important those guys are until they’re not on the field.”
Indeed, while George has always had strong defensive skills and the ability to dominate the aerial aspect of the game, the area where his coaches and teammates say he’s most developed over the last few years is in the leadership role. John can be heard barking out instructions to his back line in practice and during games, a confidence he’s built over four seasons.
“I think in 2010, I was definitely a center back who was relying a lot on Ugo Ihemelu and following him and listening to him on the field and just picking it up as I went along,” said John. “In 2013, I think [I'm] definitely a leader out there, emotionally and vocally.”
For midfielder Andrew Jacobson, John’s development can be seen in two main areas.
“One is as a leader; I think he has a good grasp of the game and understands what everyone’s supposed to be doing, so he’s a great leader on the field that gets everyone motivated and gets guys to do their jobs,” said Jacobson. “I think the other part is his belief in himself. I think when I arrived, he knew he was good, but I think now he’s starting to really understand and a lot it is how much he believes in himself.”
“When a great forward has the ball, he believes he can take it from him.”
A leader on and off the field, John is quickly emerging into a role as one of the faces of the franchise and stands at heart of an FC Dallas core that has their eyes on big things in 2013 and beyond.
“He’s played with one professional team and that’s FC Dallas,” said Hyndman. “In today’s times, you don’t find players or professionals that stay in one place too long…George has been very, very mature and really embodies the ‘Dallas 'Til I Die’ mentality.”