George John’s first two games against Seattle Sounders FC last year didn’t exactly go according to plan.
It was set up to be a great story: a Seattle-area kid who went to nearby Washington who was now an MLS rookie and facing his hometown team. However, both meetings ended prematurely for the 6-foot-3 center back.
In the first meeting last May at Pizza Hut Park, John played just 28 minutes as a hamstring injury forced him to leave the proceedings early. He missed the next six games with that injury before returning on July 4 against the New York Red Bulls.
And in the final game of the ’09 regular season at Qwest Field, the injury bug bit John again as he had to leave the match just 40 minutes in with a left leg injury. So with Sounders FC visiting Frisco on Thursday night, the Evergreen State product will be ready.
“Both times [last year], I didn’t make it to the second half because of injury,” John said after training on Monday. “I pulled my hamstring playing here at home and turned my ankle there in Seattle. It was definitely a frustrating time there last year but hopefully I can have a good showing this year and make it through 90 minutes.”
So far this season, John has started at center back in all three of FCD’s games. In week one, Kyle Davies joined him before breaking his right arm and having to leave the field in the second half against Houston. Ugo Ihemelu returned the following week and he and John continue to form a nice partnership in the middle.
“I’m just trying to stick around him and pick up his secrets so to speak,” John said of his veteran teammate. “He’s been in the league for a while. Hopefully our relationship will be such that we can be successful together this season and in the future.”
One big change for John in 2010 is that he entered preseason several pounds lighter, which has helped him in several ways.
“I think it’s just helped me come in with more confidence,” the FCD defender said. “I came in fit and ready to play. I think just mentally knowing that I prepared myself properly in the offseason getting ready to compete, it has helped me out quite a bit.”
On Monday, FCD head coach Schellas Hyndman evaluated John’s most recent performance in a 2-1 road loss on Saturday night at New York.
“He had [Juan Pablo] Ángel or Salou [Ibrahim], two pretty athletic players and then [Macoumba] Kandji comes in, he really hasn’t had any easy players to play against,” Hyndman said. “He’s served his purpose-winning tackles and also winning air balls.”
Considering John’s disappointment in leaving his first two games against Sounders FC early, the fact he is from the Seattle area and also that it was Seattle who eliminated FCD from playoff contention in the final week of 2009, there are plenty of reasons for him to be especially fired up for Thursday’s game. However, the big center back is taking a different approach.
“Yeah, I’m up for it but it’s just another team for me,” John said. “There is nothing personal. We’ve got to get a win just like any other game. I’m not putting any extra emphasis because it’s Seattle or whatnot. It’s just another team and we’ve got to get a win. I’m going to focus just like I normally do.”
And with FCD just 0-1-2 and languishing at the bottom of the Western Conference standings, John isn’t quite ready to label Thursday’s affair as a must-win.
“I think we need to win, yeah,” he said. “[But] I wouldn’t necessarily classify this as a must-win,” he said. “I don’t have enough experience to do that.”