Veteran defender Jazic in mix as Canadians eye Honduras
TORONTO — When he got called up for Canada’s games against some of the minnows of the CONCACAF region in the previous round of World Cup qualifying, Chivas USA defender Ante Jazic admitted that he was surprised that, at his age, he was included in coach Stephen Hart’s plans.
At 36 years old and with a few gray hairs speckling his unshaven face, Jazic knows the best days of his career are behind him. But one thing that has come with age is his appreciation for the game, and he’s clearly grateful for the recent call-up to his national program.
In the absence of Marcel de Jong due to injury, Jazic has emerged as the top choice for Canada at left back ahead of Mike Klukowski and Toronto FC’s Ashtone Morgan going into the team's matchup against Honduras on Tuesday (7:45 pm ET, Sportsnet).
“At my age, I take it day by day,” Jazic told MLSsoccer.com with a smile on Monday after Canada's training session. “I’m always honored to play for my country and represent my country. I’ve been in pretty good form in MLS with Chivas — I’m playing consistently. If I can contribute in any way, I’m thrilled to be here.”
A California resident since joining the LA Galaxy in 2006, Jazic credits his lifestyle on the West Coast as a reason behind his longevity. While he admits recovery after games take a big longer than it used, Jazic says living right will hopefully keep him healthy and able to play.
“I watch what I eat,” he said. “I’m lucky I have a good fiancée at home in California that takes care of me so I get my rest and I try to recover as quickly as possible and try to do the right things. I have to be careful but I try to do the right things — plenty of rest and proper nutrition is key for me.”
Jazic made his international debut in 1998 so he’s seen the battles Canada face with drawing home fans at home games. Countries like Honduras have, on numerous occasions, outdrawn home support.
But if Canada can pick up three points in this next World Cup qualifier to bring them to a perfect six after a win in Cuba last week, Jazic sees a big opportunity to start to change that culture.
“We’re all cognizant of the fact that we want to get three points,” he said. “Obviously the two-month layover is when we can build some momentum up with the possibility of qualifying for the [Hexagonal], so six points would put us in great shape and it would be great marketing for us going into future games.”