KANSAS CITY, MO - Kansas City Wizards General Manager Curt Johnson announced today the team has acquired Chicago Fire and U.S. Youth National Team midfielder/forward, and Overland Park native, Will John. In addition, the Wizards also acquired Chicago's 2nd round pick (19th overall) in the 2006 MLS SuperDraft (Jan. 20th in Philadelphia) in exchange for midfielder Diego Gutierrez.
"This is very significant on many fronts for our organization," said Johnson. "First and foremost, Will John is an exceptionally talented, young player with tremendous offensive ability. His combination of creativity and goal scoring prowess give us a unique attacking option. As well, of great importance is that Will was born and developed here in Kansas City and grew up with the dream of playing for the Wizards. Relatively speaking, we are a young professional sports organization and we are just hitting the tip of the iceberg as it relates to home-grown talent and their impact on the Kansas City Wizards."
John, 21, returns home to Kansas City following one season in Chicago. He was selected by the Fire with the 18th overall pick in the 2005 MLS SuperDraft. He made six appearances for the Fire, including two starts, while recording one assist during his rookie campaign.
"This is an exciting opportunity for me, the Wizards were my favorite team when I was growing up," said John. "I had a chance to practice with them a few years back and that was an amazing experience itself. Now that I finally have a chance to play here, I can't even describe the feeling. I look forward to playing for Coach Gansler, he's a great coach. I know I'll be in a good situation where he can make me the best player I can be."
John played two seasons at St. Louis University before signing with Major League Soccer as a Generation adidas player prior to the 2005 season. In just two seasons at SLU, John scored 19 goals and added nine assists. He was the Billikens' second-leading scorer with 23 points (9g, 5a) as a freshman, earning Soccer America Freshman All-American honors and being named to the Conference USA All-Freshman team.
As a sophomore, he was the Billikens' leading scorer with 24 points (10 g, 4a) and was named first-team All-Conference and NSCAA All-Midwest Region Second Team. He was also one of 15 MAC-Hermann Trophy semifinalists despite being just a sophomore.
In High School, John was a standout forward for the Rockhurst High School Hawklets, coached by Chris Lawson, and helped lead them to four consecutive Missouri Class 4A Semifinals. He won a State Championship with the Hawklets in 1999 as a freshman and twice finished as State runners-up in 2001 and 2002.
As a senior in 2002, he compiled a school record 92 points (36g, 20a) and was named the Gatorade Missouri Player of the Year. In addition he was named NSCAA/adidas All-American as well as first-team All-Midwest Region, All-State and Kansas City All-Metro Player of the Year. He also competed in the 2003 McDonald's All-America game.
John played club soccer for the KC Attack 84/85 team, coached by his father Emilio John, a former professional player. His club team was a two-time Region II Semifinalist, a five-time Kansas State Cup Champion and two-time State Cup Finalist. In addition the team won over thirty other tournaments and participated in showcase events like the adidas Blue Chip Invitational. Coinciding with his club obligations, John played two seasons for coaches Lincoln and Jefferson Roblee with the Kansas City Brass in the Premier Development League (PDL) in 2003 and 2004. He registered six goals in just seven games in 2004.
His numerous accomplishments on the field gained him national recognition in being selected to the U.S. U-20 National Team in 2004. In his first season with any U.S. Youth National Team, John appeared in 15 total matches, including 11 starts. He finished the year as the U-20's second leading scorer with four goals and also had one assist. His goals came against Jamaica (2), Mexico and Poland.
In 2005, John appeared in eight matches, including five starts, while scoring two goals and adding two assists. He scored a goal and added an assist in the U-20s win over Trinidad & Tobago to open the U-20's undefeated run in the CONCACAF Qualifying Tournament for the FIFA World Youth Championships. He was then a part of the U-20 team that took part in the FIFA World Youth Championships in Holland. He played the full 90 minutes in the U-20s 1-0 win over Egypt on June 18th to win their group.
Will John has followed in the successful footsteps of his Father, Dr. Emilio John. Dr. John played professionally with the Kansas City Comets and St. Louis Steamers of the MISL and with the Sacramento Gold and New Jersey Americans of the American Soccer League. He earned ASL Rookie of the Year honors with Sacramento in 1978.
Dr. John's professional career followed a decorated collegiate career at Quincy (Ill.) where he was an All-American in 1977 and runner-up for the Hermann Trophy. He was also a member of the Nigerian National Team during qualifying for the 1970 World Cup. He currently serves as the Wizards team chiropractor, a position he has held since the inaugural season in 1996.
Gutierrez, 33, appeared in 91 matches, including 84 starts, in his second tour of duty with Wizards after being reacquired by the team in a draft-day deal with the Chicago Fire in 2002. He scored four goals and nine assists, in four seasons since returning to Kansas City. He was originally drafted by the Wizards in the 2nd round of the 1996 College Draft before joining the Fire in the 1998 Expansion Draft.
"On behalf of the entire Wizards organization, I want to thank Diego for his efforts both on and off the field," added Johnson. "His contributions have been immense and we wish he and his family all the best in the future."