If you see Kevan George within the next few days, give him a pass if he seems a little tired. After all, the Crew defensive midfielder has spent time in three countries on two continents in the past 18 days while splitting time with the club and the Trinidad & Tobago national team.
Oh, and he also earned his American citizenship Tuesday, giving him dual citizenship between the countries.
Standing outside the home locker room inside Crew Stadium following Thursday’s training session, George said his journey began Sept. 1 when he left the Crew to join his national team in Saudi Arabia for the OSN Cup. After two days of travel and another day without internet access, George said he got messages from his father, Mervyn, and Crew teammate Dominic Oduro telling him that the Crew had fired coach Robert Warzycha.
The move was officially announced Sept. 2, and George said he couldn’t be reached until the fourth.
“I was surprised because it happened so quickly,” George said. “I was there and I expected I would come back and everything was the same. I was shocked, to be honest.”
The news did not affect his work with the national team, George said, but the weather did. With temperatures of 108 degrees to deal with and wind that felt like a furnace, George said the team trained for half an hour the day before its first game Sept. 5. Trinidad & Tobago would finish third in the four-team tournament, drawing eventual champion United Arab Emirates in the opening match before beating the host country in the bronze final. George entered both games as a substitute, he said.
Soccer was not the only activity undertaken while in Saudi Arabia.
“We went to the prince of Saudi Arabia’s house, or should I say, village,” George said. “It was huge. That was fun. We rode camels and he showed us guns and how they protect the area and we learned some cool things about his place. It was a great experience. We danced with the locals with swords and stuff. It was a great time. Then again, the weather was just too hot.”
After playing in the final game Sept. 9, George began an arduous trip back to North America and eventually arrived in Montreal the evening before the Crew’s game last Saturday. It was his first physical contact with the team since technical director Brian Bliss had been named the team’s interim coach, and George said his first trip into the locker room felt different.
“I got there in time for dinner,” he said. “I walked in the room and saw Bliss and (assistant coach Mike) Lapper and no other staff around. It just felt weird because I’m accustomed to seeing a four-person coaching staff. I said hello to Bliss and it was kind of weird because I didn’t know what to say. Am I supposed to say more, or just ‘hello’ and then go? But I said hello and went and talked to the guys and in the back of my head I was like, ‘What should I do? What should I do?’ it kept bothering me, but he made it very easy for me.”
George came off the bench in the win against the Impact and started the team’s reserve league game that evening before coming off in the 67th minute. He flew back to Columbus with the club and became a citizen days later. Crew midfielder Tony Tchani, one of George’s closest friends on the team, became an American citizen during the offseason and said the decision has made his life easier.
“I told him it benefits you in different ways,” Tchani said. “It’s not only for you and your family but for your future too. If you’re an American, it can help you out. I told him it’s going to open so many doors.”
Now George said he is getting accustomed to the new normal with Bliss in charge. In addition, the second-year player said he is finally getting his body back on Columbus time and getting his legs back underneath him.
“Before the (Montreal) game (Bliss) went through the lineups, standard stuff, and I like the way he addresses things,” George said. “He’s very assertive and he’s not going to hide anything. He just puts everything on the table and I’m just ready to work for him.”