By Steve Hunt
Even as center back George John missed his 20th game of the season over the weekend with a right knee injury that doesn’t seem to be going away, FC Dallas technical director Fernando Clavijo remains pretty adamant that FCD, who climbed to second in the Western Conference standings on Saturday with a 2-0 blanking of the New England Revolution at Toyota Stadium, will not be very active, if at all, during the current summer transfer window.
“Well, that’s the thing, we’re always looking. Unfortunately, we have the George John situation but we keep monitoring it. We’re not aggressively looking for anybody right now. I think we have a pretty good group. But at the same time, we are aware of what is going on with the team and the situation that we have with the central defenders,” Clavijo said by phone. “At this point, we’re going to keep looking and hopefully what we have in place is enough. If not, we may have to look at something of course.”
FCD could use some center back depth but that will all depend on what sort of resolution comes out of the John situation. And even with Hendry Thomas saying last week that he’s headed for surgery to repair a torn ACL, ending his season, Dallas is fairly well set at holding midfielder, so that’s not really an area of need for once.
But the John situation is perplexing, disappointing and so many other things both for the player as well as for the club.
John underwent surgery after last season, one where he missed the final three games with a knee issue, and it was thought all would be fine heading into preseason. However, it wasn’t and he simply hasn’t gotten any better.
Last week, John made his second trip in as many weeks to Cincinnati to meet with a specialist there, findings which FCD was waiting to learn. But no matter the diagnosis, the sentiment from the powers-that-be in Frisco is clear: they want George John back on the field but also want him healthy before he makes said return.
“I’ve talked to George many times. I know that he wants to play and we’re going to make sure that he’s on the field healthy and he doesn’t jeopardize his health. We went to different doctors. We looked at different opportunities and everybody pretty much came out with the same diagnosis with what the injury was. But again, it’s not getting any better,” Clavijo said. “We’re talking about a defender that we expected to lead the back four this year and he hasn’t been able to play one game yet. Our frustration is the same that George feels right now.”
And there is the whole issue of John’s contract, an extension which was signed prior to the 2013 season. That deal was for two guaranteed years plus one option year and this season marks the final year of the guaranteed portion of his deal.
Clavijo of course didn’t want to delve into any contractual questions surrounding John, but he did acknowledge that with New York City FC and Orlando City SC both entering MLS in 2015 and an expansion draft looming this fall, there will be some tough questions to be asked not just of John but of a number of players currently on the Dallas roster.
“I think that George, when he signed the contract, was extremely happy and so were we. We signed George because we thought he was one of the best central defenders in the league. We never expected this to happen. Again, at the same time, when the time comes, his value has dropped in a way because he hasn’t been able to play,” Clavijo said.
He also detailed what some of those specific questions will be when FCD decides who gets protected and who doesn’t later this year.
“I think there’s a lot of things you have to go through and figure out is that a player you want to keep? Is that a player you want to protect? Is that a player you want to trade? Right now, we haven’t even thought about it,” Clavijo said. “We’re still trying to figure out can we get him on the field because we know he’s going to help us. So, we’re frustrated and I know George is frustrated too. We are in no man’s land right now, in between things.”
However, there was some positive news over the weekend as on Saturday prior to the New England game, FCD announced it had reached some sort of agreement with Liga MX side Tigres UANL to delay the transfer of young goalkeeper Richard Sanchez.
Dallas was down to just two healthy keepers after Chris Seitz was sidelined with a right quadriceps tear in the 2-1 win over Philadelphia on July 4. Seitz is expected to miss between six and eight weeks.
FCD had sold Sanchez to Tigres in late June and had just one other healthy keeper on their roster in 19-year-old Jesse Gonzalez, a fellow Academy product who only recently debuted with the FCD Reserves.
So, the club worked closely with Tigres to delay the transfer and Sanchez, who was training with the team for all of last week, was Raul Fernandez’s backup on Saturday.
Clavijo complimented the Tigres organization for their flexibility during the entire situation.
“Well, let me put it this way, we have an incredible relationship with Tigres. We did a lot of things with Tigres. We contacted the people at Tigres and the transfer wasn’t done yet. They needed to put a couple more things in there and we requested to see if we could keep him for the rest of the season and I think that we came to terms so they will have an opportunity to bring him back.” Clavijo said. “So, that’s what we did. Tigres has been an incredible partner to do business with. In an emergency, they were willing to work with us.”