Shavon John-Brown: “I know the kind of players they have. I know there is quality on the team, so I was just shocked. I was not expecting it.” (Photo courtesy of the Cosmos)
Shavon John-Brown was only two days away from returning to play with FCA 04 Darmstadt in the Germany Eighth Division when he was contacted by the Cosmos in July.
They wanted him to play in the NPSL Members Cup.
Needless to say, John-Brown dropped everything after talking to Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes.
“He told me he wanted to have me for the rest of the season,” he said. “I jumped on it right away. He played for the Cosmos, a team mostly a team everybody dreams about, with good, quality players. It’s definitely the highest level I’ve played in in my career.”
John-Brown, 24, said he was surprised the Cosmos reached out. As a member of the Brooklyn Italians, he had played against the National Premier Soccer League rivals for the past two seasons.
“I know the kind of players they have,” he said. “I know there is quality on the team, so I was just shocked. I was not expecting it.”
The Italians tussled the Cosmos twice within 10 days playing to a scoreless draw on July 3 and before being eliminated in the NPSL playoffs via a 1-0 result on July 10.
“I guess I did a good job against them, but I didn’t get the win,” John-Brown said.
Cosmos head coach Carlos Mendes had liked what he seen even before that.
“He was playing locally,” he said. “I had seen a little bit and also spoke to some people from the local leagues and they were very high on him. We tried to touch base. It didn’t work at the beginning of the season and playing for Brooklyn against us, he was a very good player, made a difference for them. Once the regular NPSL season ended we thought he was a good addition. Lucky to be able to get him.”
John-Brown has trained with the team for the past month while he waits for his International Transfer Certificate from the German club.
“I don’t think about it until I’m home by myself,” John-Brown said. “While I am in training you are trying to play. You have to put your best during the workout. I haven’t been cleared from Germany yet because it was so last minute. I’m still waiting. Patience. I’ve got to hang in there, hopefully.”
While John-Brown won’t be playing with the Cosmos quite yet, he could very well be in the middle of action with another squad — the Grenada national team. He was called up by the Caribbean team for two games in the Concacaf Nations Cup — against Saint Kitts and Nevis on Sept. 5 and Belize on Sept. 8 in League B Group A action. The forward will miss next Saturday’s home game against Napa Valley 1989 FC at Mitchel Athletic Complex in Uniondale, N.Y.
“I’m pretty excited,” he said. “We’re in the second group, and pretty much a good bunch of teams. If we win all our games, we move up to the first set [League A], where there are teams like the U.S. and Canada. So, I’m hoping to get all the players healthy, get a good team and try to go forward from there.
“I feel like this should be my best run on the national team just because of the training i have been receiving from the Cosmos, the better quality, better players, more work. Plus, I’m trying to train twice a day, sleeping in and probably go to the gym after practice.”
John-Brown made his international debut when he was 16-years-old, coming on as a substitute with 10 minutes remaining in an international friendly against Guyana on Feb. 22, 2012. He has tallied four times in eight appearances.
Perhaps one reason why he is enthused about playing for Grenada is its coach — one-time Major League Soccer and St. John’s University standout and midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who also played for his country. As it turns out, John-Brown graduated from Bryant and Stratton College, the same two-year school that Joseph attended before he joined St. John’s.
“He’s a great guy man. His practices are on point,” John-Brown said. “I know the experience he has. He is a whole different guy. Since Shalrie came, the training has been on point. It has been a whole different level. He’s a guy who will look at for you and tell you where you’re going wrong, where you’ve got to move on the field and stuff like that.”
John-Brown was born in Montreal, Canada to a Grenadian mother and Jamaican father and grew up in Grenada. After graduating from Bryant and Stratton, he attended Alderson Broaddus University and earned a degree in sports management while being named the 2016 Grenada footballer of the year as a junior. Previous winners include Joseph and Grenada international Jason Roberts, who starred for Wigan and Blackburn Rovers in England.
Then came the opportunity to play for FCA 04 Darmstadt, which compete in German’s lowest level.
“They always got players from all over,” John-Brown said. “It’s one of the many teams that I know don’t have any Germans on their team. So, for me it was easy communicating with players. It was players from the U.S., Brazil, Colombia. Everybody knew English. It was a good group of guys. It was only the second half of the season, but we made a good run. I just want to wish them the best.”
John-Brown said he scored five goals and had a couple of assists before an injury sidelined him for the final four games of the 2019-2020 season. He then returned home and played for the Italians.
“It was not one of the toughest leagues to play in,” he said. “Once you play you want to put your best foot forward and hopefully get something out of it.”
A few months later, John-Brown was training with the Cosmos, although he admitted he had some reservations during his early days at practice.
“They always had good players and good quality, but I was surprised,” he about his first session. “The ball movement, the level is so much higher. You’re playing with guys who actually played in the [UEFA] Champions League, someone who played for the national team, playing against high quality players.”
John-Brown was referring to former Albanian national team captain Ansi Agolli, who plays at left back and midfield for the club.
“The touch and everything has got to be on point in practice,” he added. “So, I was scared at first. But then everybody told me to calm down. All the players are so friendly. It made me feel comfortable and once I’m comfortable, I can put in the work I usually do.”
He can’t wait until he gets a chance to show Cosmos fans what he can do, adding that Mendes and the coaching staff have helped him refine his game.
“The coaches will see it and they will tell you about it and then in your head, you’ll be like, ‘Oh yeah, they got a point,’ ” he said. “I’m pretty happy to be here. … I can’t wait to get on the field to show that my game has went up a notch.”