Will John's speed ignite Fire's scoring chances?
Collins John is hardly an unknown, but he could wind up being quite a find for the Fire.
At age 24 John brings with him from Europe a history of both success and failure that is at once tantalizing and worrying.
But mostly tantalizing.
He played with Fire forward Brian McBride at Fulham and dazzled, scoring 15 goals in 62 matches over his first two seasons with the Premier League club.
"He's played at a high level when he was younger," Fire technical director Frank Klopas said of the Liberia-born John. "He's got good feet, and obviously growing up in Holland they really work on the technical side. -
"You don't play at a high level like that by luck," Klopas added.
But the last couple of years have been difficult.
He fell out of form and out of favor at Fulham and drifted through a few clubs, most recently KSV Rosalare in Belgium, developing a reputation as a man with an attitude. Lazy and with a sense of entitlement.
"People always talk, you hear rumors. You put that aside," Klopas said.
"I think I just had a bad moment, I think I just had a bad couple of years in my career, and that happens sometimes," John said Wednesday from Arizona. "That is just part of life, I guess. I'm still a young player and obviously young players make ups and downs in their career. - That's part of life. You have to respect it and not think about it too much."
The Fire hasn't seen the attitude problems during preseason training in Arizona. John says he's enjoying being around his new teammates and his second chance to succeed.
"He's coming with a good attitude. He's a good guy," Klopas said. "So far he's fit in very good with the group."
Maybe he can play like Damani Ralph, a Fire draft pick who scored 11 goals in 2003 and again in 2004 before taking off for more lucrative pastures in Russia.
John "has the pace, strength and ability to get behind defenders or beat people off the dribble," Klopas added. "He's a guy you've got to be aware of because at any time he can strike."
"Collins, you know he's a very talented player," McBride, a teammate at Fulham, said last week before leaving for Arizona. "He's strong, he's quick. He's got experience. He understands the need to play the ball quickly, so seeing the field quickly is important. He's shown he can adapt to that. I think he's got a lot to offer here. He's very much a goal-scoring-oriented forward. - He's got a powerful shot. He's not an easy guy to keep down."
You can never get enough players like that, especially a team that, in Chris Rolfe and Cuauhtemoc Blanco, lost its second- and third-leading scorers. The Fire scored just 39 goals in 30 regular-season goals in 2009. It was shut out eight times. McBride led the team with 7 goals last year.
"Hopefully, we can do something," John said, "but maybe it's too early to decide."
The day of decision is nearing, probably around Feb. 18, when the team finishes in Phoenix.
"So far it's been very good," John said of training. "I'm enjoying the time in Phoenix. The training camp has been great actually. The group has been great and we have a good thing."