John Makes Name for Himself

Grahame L. Jones
Date Published: 
Los Angeles Times

Soccer: Columbus star scores twice in 3-0 victory over Galaxy on a hot night at the Rose Bowl.

He has an unlikely name. It's Stern John, not John Stern.

And he has enjoyed an unlikely first season in Major League Soccer. How else would you explain 19 goals in 20 games?

He also comes from a town with an unlikely name. How many other people do you know from Tunapuna, Trinidad?

"Actually, they put the wrong place," John said Saturday night, correcting the Columbus Crew media guide. "I'm from Tacarigo, about five minutes from the airport."

Either way, the Columbus striker is rapidly making a name for himself in MLS, especially after adding two goals to his tally on a baking-hot evening at the Rose Bowl as the Crew shut out the Galaxy, 3-0, in front of 19,633.

Columbus defender Todd Yeagley was asked if the team has a nickname for John.

"Yeah," Yeagley answered, grinning. "The Man."

Others were equally complimentary.

"You can see that the ball is his friend, not his enemy," said U.S. national team defender Thomas Dooley, who anchored Columbus' impenetrable defense.

"He's very good at scoring," said Brian McBride, John's fellow forward. "He's got a nose for the goal and guys are looking or him."

One of those guys is Andy Williams, who set up two of the Crew's goals Saturday and broke a league record in the process.

But it was John who stole the show.

"I'm having a great season," he said. "I'd like to thank the Lord for making me come in and score some wonderful goals. I hope I can continue and we can win the championship."

Crew Coach Tom Fitzgerald said much the same thing after the impressive victory.

"I'd like to come back here for the final," he said of MLS championship game Oct. 25.

The loss ended a four-game Galaxy winning streak and extended Columbus' streak to three victories.

It was 89 degrees at game time and the heat rising in the Arroyo Seco seemed to sap the energy from both teams. The result was a slow-paced first half, with few real scoring chances.

Galaxy defender Steve Jolley forced Crew goalkeeper Juergen Sommer into a smart save with a header off a corner kick in the 14th minute.

At the other end, Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman did well to make a kick save at the feet on an onrushing McBride three minutes later.

It was Jolley and McBride who were instrumental in Columbus' first goal, scored with 14:13 left in the half.

Williams, a World Cup player for Jamaica, looped a pass into the Galaxy goal area, where Jolley lost track of it in the lights. McBride was right on his shoulder, and the U.S. national team striker accepted the gift and lifted a shot over Hartman as he ran out to challenge.

Williams' pass set an MLS record. It was the sixth consecutive game in which he had an assist.

With the Galaxy (20-7) playing a lethargic game, Columbus (13-12) doubled its lead in the 44th minute. Again Williams provided the telling pass, this time to John.

John, 21, who last season won rookie-of-the-year honors while playing for the New Orleans Riverboat Gamblers of the A-League, trapped the ball with his chest, took time to give himself a clear shot at goal and rifled a volley just inside the right post.

Hartman, off his line, had no chance.

John scored his second goal in the 79th minute, catching the Galaxy defense on a fastbreak. John passed to Robert Warzycha, got the return pass and tapped it into an empty net.

"It was one of those games again," Galaxy Coach Octavio Zambrano said. "I think we came out flat from the beginning and could not catch our rhythm.

"Of their three goals, two of them were gifts on our part. We made a couple of crucial mistakes and could not recover."