Last month, Avery John was in the Trinidad and Tobago starting lineup, defending against Sweden and Paraguay in the World Cup. Now John has returned to reserve duty for the Revolution.
How does someone go from being a starting left back in Kaiserslautern to the bench when the Revolution take on the Wizards in Kansas City tomorrow?
There is no easy answer. The following are factors: The Revolution have more good left-side defensive players than the Soca Warriors; John was not a Revolution starter before the World Cup started; John has a propensity to accumulate yellow cards.
``Avery is the same as everyone else on the squad," Revolution coach Steve Nicol said yesterday. ``We are pretty much back to having a full squad and that is the way we want it, everyone fighting for a spot.
``I like to think we are pretty straight with people and if they deserve to play, they play, if someone else is in a position to play, they play. Avery is a good pro. He knows that in the soccer world things are never level. There are always ups and downs, injuries and suspensions, loss of form or somebody else's good form. He has been around long enough to know."
John is frustrated by his status; after returning from the World Cup, he played in three games (all Revolution victories), but was suspended after being ejected against New York July 1, and he has played in one game since, against Chicago July 8.
``I think if you are starting and playing and then you go away, especially to a major tournament, then you come back and are not playing anymore, it affects you mentally," John said. ``You try not to let it affect you as a player, because you can be thrown back in at any time. You have to be professional about things.
``It is difficult to swallow, because as you get older, you want to be playing. But it's a team game and the coach has to make the decisions. You have to be professional and not mope about it -- I still play in reserve games and internationals, so all is not lost."
John has had difficulty with World Cup and MLS referees because of his physical style, but it is that physicality that helps prop up a Revolution defense based on positioning, quickness, and subtlety.
``Avery has certainly come back from the World Cup more confident," Nicol said. ``The way he plays the game, he is competitive, and his challenges are all or nothing. But he goes for things full-blooded, that is the way Avery plays the game. If you are playing against him, you know you are going up against a strong and tough competitor.
``He is a physical presence. But teams have already tried to pressure us [physically] and we haven't really buckled. I don't recall too many crosses in the box, where they get a header and put it in the net. That means we are either stopping crosses or we are dealing with it when it gets there."
John started 19 games and provided the deciding goal in a playoff victory over Columbus in 2004, his first season with the Revolution. But when the Revolution went to a 3-5-2 formation last year, John began the season on the bench. John returned to start seven successive games (the Revolution lost only once in 13 matches with him in the starting lineup) before joining Trinidad and Tobago for World Cup qualifying, and has not returned to the starting lineup on a regular basis.
``I try not to become frustrated, but the important thing is not to be disruptive to the team," John said.
``Everyone that knows me knows how I play. I am not nasty, but I am a hard-nosed tackler and there is not anything wrong with that. Growing up as a kid, I had two or three surgeries from going in timid so I don't intend to change my style."
John participated in Trinidad and Tobago's World Cup debut, a 0-0 tie with Sweden, though he was ejected after a second caution in the opening minute of the second half. John did not play in a loss to England, then returned for another defeat against Paraguay, both by 2-0 scores.
``We did not want to lose to England, because of the history," John said. ``But it was the experience of a lifetime. We were the smallest country and, even though we didn't win a game, we achieved a little more than what was expected. We gave all we could give and we can look each other in the eye and say we gave 120 percent.
``We made a name for ourselves and the buzz is back [in Trinidad]. It gives the younger guys something to build on for the next four years."
John will play for Trinidad and Tobago in an exhibition in Japan Aug. 9 . . . The Revolution's Tony Lochhead will join New Zealand for training camp in England Aug. 1-12.