Jakovic's return ups competition on DC's back line
WASHINGTON — Center back Dejan Jakvoic’s recent return to full fitness creates a good problem for D.C. United.
The Canadian, who has missed significant time with a hamstring injury suffered on June 1, came back into the starting lineup in last weekend’s 3-1 friendly loss against EPL side Everton.
“We have three capable center backs now, and it’s good to have that competition,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “We’ll see how it progresses this week, as far as [Jakovic’s] fitness.”
With his health improving, Jakovic will look to reclaim a spot in the first XI, creating a three-way fight for two spots in central defense with Ethan White and Brandon McDonald. The least experienced of the three, rookie and Home Grown product White, has made 14 starts this season and wants to make the coaches think twice about replacing him in the lineup.
“I can’t really do anything but play my game and make it hard on the coaches,” White said, “so it’s really up to them at the end of the day.”
The rookie defender enjoyed playing alongside McDonald, as the pair started the last four league matches together in Jakovic’s absence.
“I think it’s been good,” White said. “We’re still coming along. It takes a few games to get on the same page, but relationships are built as time passes.”
McDonald, only recently acquired by DC back on June 27, played alongside Jakovic in the Everton friendly, a possible defensive combination down the road.
This weekend, with the team traveling to San Jose to face McDonald’s former club, might be too soon for Jakovic to go 90 minutes. However, McDonald acknowledged the importance of all three being ready to quickly adapt and get on the same page.
“Whoever the coaches decide to put back there, if it’s Dejan and Ethan, me and Ethan, me and Dejan, whoever it is, we have to come along quick, mesh well, and try to get some results,” said McDonald.
Olsen, who has preached the important of depth and creating competition for spots, is happy to have another healthy option to keep the starters on their toes.
“It’s summer, so you’re always going to need fresh bodies, and it does push guys that maybe lately are a little bit comfortable in their role,” he said. “I think you saw that a little bit against New England and certainly against Everton.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.