- The Washington Times - Saturday, April 25, 2009

Avery John has done a lot of swimming and jogging on the beaches of his native Trinidad and Tobago recently, and it hasn’t all been for fun.

Even though he hasn’t played a competitive game since December, D.C. United’s newest acquisition said he’s ready for action.

“I’m capable of doing 70 minutes,” the defender said Friday, a day after United acquired his rights from the New England Revolution. “I’m a person that takes care of myself [in the] offseason. As a professional, I’m still on the verge.”

John spent last year with second-division club Miami FC after four seasons with the Revolution. His last competitive match came in December, a Gold Cup qualifying game with his national team.

“The one thing he brings is cover in the back and a wealth of experience and a calmness,” United coach Tom Soehn said. “He’s getting better and better and getting fit, and it just gives us more options because we are a little shallow in the back.”

United waived forward Francis Doe to open a roster spot for John, who said he had offers to play in Australia and China but couldn’t turn down the opportunity to return to the District, where he played at American.

The 33-year-old said he brings experience and pedigree but knows he has to work his way into the mix.

“Make no mistake, you have to work for your [playing time],” Avery said. “It’s not like you are coming in here [thinking], ‘You are a senior guy, you’ve been in the league and in the World Cup.’ I never think like that. Every year I want to try to improve.”

John was brought in to shore up the left side of United’s back line. Veteran Bryan Namoff appears to have locked up the right-back role, and Dejan Jakovic seems to have claimed the center-back job, but the left side is still up for debate. Left-footer Marc Burch can play in that role, as can Rodney Wallace.

It’s possible that John could see action Sunday when United visits the New York Red Bulls.

“I just need to get my fitness back and know the guys’ names and everybody’s role,” John said.

Turf problems - Soehn said he is concerned about playing on the artificial turf at Giants Stadium.

“We thought about training on our parking lot to emulate what the game would be like, but there’s too much gravel,” he said. “It’s hard because, even if we go on our field turf [at RFK Stadium’s auxiliary field], it’s not even close to what it plays like there.”

Local team opens - Former United reserve players Jeff and Pat Carroll, Ryan Cordeiro and Sergio Salas will be in the Real Maryland FC lineup when it faces the Bermuda Hogges on Saturday at Richard Montgomery High School. It’s the first game of the season for the USL2 team.