FRISCO, Texas -- George John’s last trip to Seattle’s Quest Field with FC Dallas was largely a forgettable experience.
It was the final game of the 2009 regular season and FCD was clinging to the faintest of playoff hopes. The Texan club led 1-0 at the break thanks to a goal by Atiba Harris in the 14th minute, but the Sounders turned it around with goals from Nate Jaqua and Brad Evans to prevail 2-1 and put an end to FCD’s season.
John, a native of Shoreline, Wash., had to leave that match in the 68th minute due to injury. And he’s clearly ready to make his return to the Emerald City.
“Seattle is home for me. That’s where I grew up and played college soccer,” John said after training on Monday. “It feels like home when I play there and I’m going to have a lot of friends and family watching me. Obviously, it’s a pretty intimidating stadium to go into with all the fans, but I’m just going into it like any other game this season [and try] to get a win.”
After a rookie season that was defined more by several injuries that kept him off the pitch for much of the year, the big center back has responded in 2010. He is currently one of only two FCD players to have started all 13 games – captain Daniel Hernandez is the other – and played all 1,170 possible minutes this season.
Hyndman definitely likes what he has gotten from his defender in 2010.
“I think George has really been doing well. It’s just nice to have him on the field,” the FCD coach said. “It’s nice to have the kind of match-up with the big boys. I think George can handle physical play. He can dish it out and he’s maturing.”
The University of Washington grad rates his performance so far this year a bit lower.
“I think it’s about average for me. I definitely can go back throughout the season and think of some key mistakes, mental lapses that I’ve had,” John admitted. “But I feel like I’m growing and improving, which is the most important thing. Being healthy has been a big concern and I’ve stayed healthy so far this season.”
Even though he feels he could have performed better in 2010, he realizes this year is a whole new ballgame compared to how things went for him last season.
“Last year, I was up and down with my fitness level [because of] all the injuries,” John said. “This year, staying healthy has allowed me to be fitter. My endurance is there and everything.”
For all but one of those games – the March 27 season opener against Houston – John has started alongside veteran defender Ugo Ihemelu and they have formed an effective partnership in the middle of the field.
“It’s good. I feel like we’ve got a close partnership on and off the field,” said John. “I’m just learning from him. He’s the veteran and I’m just trying to take as much as possible from him every game and in practices. He’s a great leader and a good guy to have out there.”
And Ihemelu likely thinks the same of his young partner.