Even today, as FC Dallas was preparing to depart for north of the border in advance of their CONCACAF Champions League group match with Toronto FC, the hot topic of conversation at the team’s headquarters in Frisco was about center back George John and his imminent move to Blackburn of the English Premier League.
It seems that the 24-year-old defender who is in his third season in MLS was expected for a recovery session on Monday morning, at least until his coach learned right before the start of that session that he would not be attending.
News surfaced yesterday that John was on a plane to Greece to get his European passport and that he would make his way to the Rovers later in the week for a medical exam, clearing the way for him to sign with the EPL side.
Dallas gaffer Schellas Hyndman admits he doesn’t really know what the latest is with the whole situation.
“I’m really in a difficult place because I really don’t know what’s going on. I just met with my team. I think they know,” Hyndman said after training on Tuesday morning. “I think George has contacted some players. But I was expecting him at practice yesterday and got an e-mail 10 minutes before saying he was on his way to Greece. Let’s assume that all is happening and assume that he’s in England trying to go through a physical and everything. If that’s the case, then we obviously wish him the best. It’s something he wanted to do.”
Of course, looking an integral part of a back four that was among the best in MLS is a huge blow for any club, but instead of dwelling on the negatives of John’s likely departure, his head coach is instead looking at the glass as half-full.
“It’s hard to lose somebody at this point in time but just like losing Kenny Cooper [in 2009],” Hyndman said. “When we lost Kenny Cooper in the middle of the year, it gave us the resources, the financial resources to build the team that we have out here now. I think when you look a player’s mind, if he wants to be somewhere else it’s hard to say we’re not going to make this change. If he wants to be somewhere else, we’ve got to support him.”
Earlier this year, FCD locked up John’s partner in the club’s central defense, Ugo Ihemelu with a long-term deal. And it seems the organization was looking to do the same with the University of Washington product but was never able to reach an agreement with him and it appears that’s the case for good reason.
“We’ve been trying to re-sign him for over a year but he basically chose that salary so he didn’t have to re-sign. I think he was looking at maybe a European passport or other opportunities. But this quite honestly isn’t the place he wanted to be,” Hyndman said. “If that’s the case, I think ownership and everyone else are probably making the right decision for the future of our club so that we can compete. This was not an easy decision for everyone to make.”
One telling sign that this is all but a done deal was seen right outside the Dallas locker room on Tuesday. John’s No. 14 jerseys appeared in a laundry bin ready to be washed but without his name on the back, a sure sign he has played his last match for the reigning Western Conference champions.
So, with the affable Greek-American gone, who will take his place? On Saturday night, it was Zach Loyd moving over from right back to fill in with Jackson starting on the right side. That lasted 24 minutes until Loyd had to leave the game with a pulled hamstring, an injury that will keep him out of at least Wednesday’s CCL game in Toronto.
“It’s going to be a little tough for him. I don’t think he’ll be making this trip and we hope that he’ll be prepared for the Kansas City trip,” Hyndman said.
So, that likely leaves newcomer Jack Stewart and maybe even Jackson as a fill-in but the gaffer even brought up another intriguing possibility.
“Well, I think we have a couple of people that might step up. We brought in Jack Stewart but we don’t know what we can do. The other person that could step up in that position would be Zach Loyd and then the other person is Andrew Jacobson,” Hyndman said. “Andrew Jacobson could be the best header on our team. I think Andrew that would be able to bring some qualities that we look for in a center back.”