Former West Ham loanee George John battling to get MLS career back on track

Upton Park

A serious knee injury has left the New York City FC defender sidelined since October 2013.

New York City FC’s George John has been among the leading defenders in MLS in recent seasons when healthy but, with the 2015 campaign now underway, the once-promising centre-back finds himself battling to get back on the pitch.

Beginning his professional career with FC Dallas, having been drafted 14th overall in the 2009 MLS SuperDraft out of Washington, John would establish himself as one of the league’s top prospects over the following campaigns and helped his team finish 2010 MLS Cup runners-up after conceding a franchise-best 28 goals in their 30 regular-season games.

His reputation ever-growing, the Greek passport-holder was soon tipped for a high-profile switch to Europe, with then-Premier League strugglers Blackburn Rovers named as potential suitors in August 2011, and also earned a call-up to the US national team’s winter training camp.

He would have to turn down the invite, however, in order to join West Ham United on a two-month loan with a view to a permanent move and, though he returned to Dallas in March 2012 without seeing a minute of action, his brief stint was still regarded as a clear sign of his potential.

However, after remaining free of injuries for 2012 and most of 2013, John began to experience knee pain towards the end of latter season which soon developed into a chronic problem.

After months of attempting rehab and visiting a series of different doctors over the first half of 2014, he was forced to go under the knife in the summer and ruled out for the rest of the season, resulting in an entire lost campaign and leaving his future with Dallas up in the air.

With the club leaving him and his $300,000-per-season contract exposed in the December expansion draft, NYCFC opted to take a punt on the chances of unearthing a fit-again John for their inaugural campaign and, while head coach Jason Kreis remains positive about his chances of contributing at some point in 2015, there is still no timetable for his return.

“This could be a major addition for us, which really isn’t gaining any attention by anybody, which that’s fantastic by me,” he told SBISoccer last week. “If George John were to come healthy at the end of the season, that would be fantastic for this club.

“A George John that’s healthy and that’s playing to his capabilities is one of the best defenders in our league,” he continued. “He had a lot of talk around him, and I think justifiably so, about being a national team prospect.

“I know that he was getting some opportunities with Greece, so this is a high-level defender, and I’m just extremely hopeful that we can get him back to being himself.”

Now aged 27, John’s chances of reaching his full potential look to be fading at this point but, considering his West Ham stint and past US call-up, there is no doubt that NYCFC could still reap the benefits of overlooking his fitness concerns in the expansion draft.

His past hopes of carving out a successful Premier League career appear to be all but gone but, with the Manchester City-backed club still looking largely thin on the backline, his potential return would a huge boost to their chances of a successful debut season.

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