Longtime D.C. United fans might struggle to comprehend the sight of Avery John, their club's newest acquisition, in a Black-and-Red uniform. After all, the veteran Trinidad and Tobago international spent four of the past five years as a regular for United's rivals in New England, taking part in many classic clashes between D.C. and the Revolution.
"It's intriguing just to come back," said John, who trained with United for two weeks before his signing was finalized last Thursday. "My first time training in MLS, I was in D.C. Bruce Arena was [coaching] here and I got to come and train with the guys. So I felt at home, like this would be the right move. You hope and pray that things go through smoothly, and it did."
Blessed with an overabundance of attacking players, United released striker Francis Doe in order to bring John on board to bolster the depth and savvy of a talented but young defense. Coach Tom Soehn was drawn to the veteran's familiarity with MLS as well as the 3-5-2 formation D.C. has utilized thus far this season, a shape traditionally favored by New England boss Steve Nicol.
"We were a little top-heavy and weren't really covered in the back, so we wanted to make sure we had options, especially knowing how long the season is," said Soehn of John, who can play on the left side or centrally in a four-man back line. "Our league's a tough league to adapt to and obviously he knows it in and out. He's played a lot of games."
When his last MLS contract expired, John left New England to try his hand in Europe. He believed he was close to agreeing terms with English Championship side Queens' Park Rangers, but the London-based club bailed out in the late stages and John returned stateside, joining USL-1 side Miami FC to keep fit in advance of Trinidad and Tobago's Gold Cup qualifying efforts over the winter.
"I felt it was the right time," he said of his European venture. "There were promises that were broken, so it was disappointing. So what can you say? You just have to leave it at that. It's all part of life, it's all part of business."
More recently, John entertained offers from China and Australia but he and his wife Dana decided to stick to a more familiar environment -- and the nation's capital represents an appropriate destination for a well-traveled player looking to wind down his career in style. John's livelihood has taken him from the quiet southwest corner of Trinidad to Arizona, Ireland and Boston, not to mention various points far and wide in the service of his national team, including two appearances at World Cup 2006 in Germany.
The 33-year-old remains in his country's player pool for the ongoing World Cup 2010 qualifying round, though results have not been kind to the Soca Warriors in the early stages of the CONCACAF final hexagonal. Finding themselves in last place after three matches, T&T recently parted ways with head coach Francisco Maturana and handed the reins to veteran legend Russell Latapy, who will serve as player/coach.
"I know him as a player, as a person, because I've played with him," said John of Latapy. "As a coach, I honestly don't know how things are going to work out. So it's hard to say. I think with his experience, you still have Dwight Yorke and those guys playing in Europe being back in the islands and having a good knowledge of what CONCACAF is all about. They can help. The rest really is up to the players, to try to come together, put everything behind them and just have a good go. ... We're not out of it."
For now, he is focused on working his way up to full match fitness for D.C. and with United facing a busy slate of matches ahead, Soehn believes his newest acquisition will see playing time sooner rather than later. John looks back fondly on his stint with the Revolution, but he's eager to achieve bigger and better things with his present club.
"The four seasons [in New England], everybody obviously will remember that. But now to me, that time has come and gone. I did what I had to do and now I'm a D.C. United player," he said. "It's like a new beginning for me, a new challenge. It's another opportunity to try to go get some silverware and try to finish a career on a high."