Alexi Lalas MLS blog: Why big George John can make a big impression at Blackburn

Welcome to MirrorFootball's new MLS blog, brought to you in conjunction with ESPN. Every week USA legend Alexi Lalas will be on hand to bring you the latest news from the States, and you'll also be able to watch the week's best goals and highlights...

This week everyone's talking about FC Dallas' George John. I know he's got two first names, but it can't be helped... and it's not his fault.

Anyway, the 24 year-old centre-back looks headed for a move to your side of the pond. Blackburn Rovers, who seem to enjoy signing Yanks, are about to put pen to paper with John.

Now this move shouldn't come as a surprise. John is one of the best defenders in MLS, and he's got the tools that Blackburn manager Steve Kean likes: "He is 6'4", a commanding defender. He is quick, aggressive, and he has a really bright future," Kean said this week.

Plus, John's got Greek citizenship. Opa!

Keep in mind the last time an MLS defender went to Blackburn he ended up wearing the captain's armband. Still does.

That's right, Ryan Nelsen started his career with DC United. You're welcome, Lancashire.

So is Blackburn getting another Ryan Nelsen in George John?

Not really. In some ways, yes – big, tough, good in the air. But John has something Nelsen didn't when he went to England: potential.

John is still learning the game. When he started in MLS in 2009, he was like a spindly-legged foal, stumbling around the field, trying to figure out how his body worked and how the game moved. Since then, he's grown into his body, his position and his role.

And there's more to John than just his aerial abilities and his willingness to bang bodies in the box.

"John will surprise people with his composure out of the back and his smart positional sense," Ex-Dallas defender and current FC Dallas broadcaster Bobby Rhine said.

Now I'm not sure how often Blackburn with be comfortable playing out of the back, but it's still nice to know they're getting a player that won't run for the hills at the proposition of playing a 10-yard pass under pressure.

Like most big defenders, John's weakness is dealing with speed. But he'll be fine. He's smart enough and positionally sound enough to limit his exposure to speed.

But let's be honest: John is not some magician who is going to transform Blackburn from relegation contenders to Top 6 challengers. He's a big, strong American centre-back - just like I was. He may not be a world-beater, but like most American defenders, he'll take his lumps and do his job.

Alexi Lalas is a lead football analyst for ESPN - the live and exclusive broadcaster of Major League Soccer in the UK. Watch NY Red Bulls v LA Galaxy live on ESPN at midnight on Sunday 28th August. ESPN and ESPN America are the home of major sports from the US, including NBA, MLB, NHL, NFL Monday Night Football, and NCAA US college sports. For details visit  

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