WASHINGTON – D.C. United’s season may have ended at the end of October, but having two Reserve League matches left to play finally gave defender Dejan Jakovic a chance to return to the field.
Jakovic was a second-half substitute and played 30 minutes in the first of those two reserve fixtures, a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls on Thursday.
“It feels great, I’ve been training with the team for two weeks,” he told MLSsoccer.com. “My fitness is pretty much back – it felt good to come out and play with the team.”
Hamstring issues dogged Jakovic throughout the 2011 season. He picked up his first at the beginning of June in an international friendly with Canada that knocked him out of the summer’s Gold Cup, and he finally returned from that injury at the end of July.
But five games later, he picked up a second hamstring injury, less serious than the first, though he couldn’t heal in time to help D.C. make the playoff push down the stretch.
In all, he managed just 15 appearances on the year.
“It was definitely disappointing, and at the time to have the first one and the second one, and to not be able to help my team in the last couple of games, really sucked,” he said.
Thursday's Reserve League appearance gave Jakovic a chance to continue building his fitness and be prepared for next year. He'll get another chance on Nov. 15 in D.C. United's Reserve League finale at Columbus on Nov. 15. That's a prospect that excites the 26-year-old.
“I think we have a great young team,” he said. “We showed that we can play with anybody when we were healthy. I don’t know what’s going to happen, if the team’s going to change, but I’m happy with the group of guys we have right now.”
This latest injury did cost Jakovic a shot at playing in the latest round of World Cup qualifiers with Canada, who play St. Kitts and Nevis on Friday in the Caribbean and back in Toronto again on Nov. 15.
Jakovic said he’ll be keeping an eye on the qualifiers, and thinks advancing to the next round won’t be too difficult (Canada need one point from the remaining two games).
“I will be watching," he said. "I am a little disappointed [not to play] but obviously, I am just coming back from injury. I’m not too worried about it – knock on wood.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, college and youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow@travismclark