This week, New England Revolution defender Avery John has been saying what a remarkable 18 months he has experienced.
After all, he helped Trinidad & Tobago qualify for its first World Cup, played in two games in Germany and is on the verge of aiding the New England Revolution make its dreams come true by winning a first MLS Cup.
"I don't want to say it can't get any better because it always can get better," he said after Revs practice Friday. "But the last 18 months have been great. I've been very blessed."
John missed last year's MLS Cup Final, but he had a decent excuse -- he had to be with the T&T national side for its final World Cup qualifying run with Bahrain.
Of course, he made a no-brainer decision, helping the Soca Warriors to book their first World Cup appearance -- in Germany.
While with Trinidad, part of John's heart was with the Revs, who lost to the Los Angeles Galaxy in extra time 1-0 at Pizza Hut Park.
"As a person, as a professional, where you stand, that's where your focus has to be," he said. "I called and spoke to the guys. 'Hey, listen, all the best. I will check up on see what's the score.' At that point, mentally, physically and spiritually it was for the World Cup."
The 31-year-old John's World Cup turned out to be shorter than expected. John was sent off in what turned into an historic scoreless tie with Sweden, sat out the 2-0 loss to England with a one-game suspension and played in the 2-0 defeat to Paraguay.
"It was everything you possibly realize," he said of playing in the World Cup. "You actually made it. You are actually participating in it. It was everything. It was everything I could possibly dream of."
Even with getting red-carded?
"Even that. I can look at it now and laugh and joke about it," he said with a laugh. "At the time, I was crying. I made history. I was the person from Trinidad & Tobago to get a red card at the World Cup. I was the person (at this) World Cup to actually get the first one."
Success can be measured in different ways. Coming home with a point from Europe and holding their own against more experienced sides was a moral victory.
"We were going to (allow) eight or plus goals," John said. "We went there and showed the world a whole different story. We played like true Soca Warriors. We played with a lot of heart, a lot of passion. We did what we set out to do. we went there to make a statement, to put Trinidad & Tobago on the map and to try to show the whole world that we're not just about partying, carnival and everything. We wanted to show them, 'Listen, this is soccer and we mean business.'"
John, a left back, did not get much rest. A few days after Trinidad was eliminated, he was back home with the Revs, who made one of their traditional late-season surges to reach MLS Cup for the third time in five seasons.
"I don't want to say we have something to prove," he said. "We already have achieved what we wanted getting here. We want to finish achieving everything in the cup. Everybody's trying."
The roadblock is Houston Dynamo and two of the leading MLS offensive stars -- midfielder Dwayne De Rosario and striker Brian Ching.
"When you look at each team, you know the most dangerous players," John said. "At the same time, it's 11 guys. The last thing you want coming up, Brian Ching doesn't score, De Rosario doesn't score, but one of the defenders comes up and scores a goal and they win. It doesn't matter. Houston wins. At the end of the day, we need to deal with everything, the whole 11 of Houston on a one-on-one basis and really take it to them.
"I'm really looking forward to it. This is my first MLS Cup Final because I wasn't here last year. I'm glad that I'm here. The rest of the guys had a disappointment last year and they're glad to be back. Everybody has a lot of passion. I don't think you're going to see a lot of nerves because everybody has been there already. So it should play off very well."
John was used sparingly until their September run. Including the playoffs, the Revs are 9-1-3 with John as a starter this season (they're 12-1-3 through 2005).
"It's not about Avery John," he said. "It's about the New England Revolution."
John added that Revs coach Steve Nicol "has a job to do, regardless if I like it or I don't like it. It's not about me. soccer's about 11 players and a manager's decision. I'm glad I'm playing now. Before that, I wasn't happy as a player my age at the international stage. You want to be playing.
"That's how life is. if you're not playing, you're unhappy. You try to find somewhere else to go where who might need you or you have a better chance. I'm fortunate. Steve was thinking we'll have to make a change and I'm back in and the team is doing well. I accept it with open hands. I hope it continues where I can play the next game Sunday and we win also, so we have a perfect year and have a great 18 months at the international and club level."
But something is about John, who hasn't forgotten his roots from poverty in the Caribbean.
He sponsors a soccer league -- the Avery John League -- back home in Vance River in southern Trinidad. He sends home old and used equipment from the Revs, uniforms and balls from his sponsor, Puma, and he even takes money out of his own pocket, even though most MLS players don't earn a hell of a lot of money.
"Anything I can get a hold of ... to try to help the community," he said.
"Because of my community, that's who I am today. I started off playing soccer barefoot in the road without any T-shirts. Now I have an opportunity where I can give them football boots, shin guards, uniforms, everything i didn't have. I'm trying to get a structure into the organization, not for them just to say, 'Listen, we've got this and that.' Make sure they understand they know where it's coming from. ... They need to understand where I came from and where I am going.
"You want to set an example. You want to make sure you have a positive role for the young people to show them this is what Avery has done. You don't have to be me. But if you can be you, You still can be a good person and achieve everything you can achieve."
Thanks to soccer, John got an opportunity to see the world. He first attended college in the U.S. -- he earned a degree in business administration from American University -- playing in Europe before earning a spot on the Trinidad & Tobago national team.
He then rattled off the countries he has visited -- China, South Africa, Kenya, Botswana, the United States, Mexico, Egypt, Morocco, France, Sweden, Estonia, Ireland, Germany and several nations in South America.
"I'm one of the lucky ones," he said.
Avery John hopes his luck as a player will continue at least one more day.