WASHINGTON – Last season, D.C. United center back Dejan Jakovic appeared in 23 matches, tying a career high, scored his first MLS goal and logged 1,861 minutes en route to helping lead United to the playoffs.
He and Brandon McDonald were regarded as one of the league's better central defensive pairings heading into this 2013 campaign, but with McDonald now in Salt Lake after being traded and Jakovic fighting through another season interrupted by injuries, those expectations have fallen by the wayside.
However, Jakovic returned to action late last month after missing eight league matches with an adductor strain and subbed on against Chicago in a 4-1 loss after playing a half in a friendly against Chivas de Guadalajara. He then started three consecutive matches (two MLS and the club’s 2-0 US Open Cup semifinal win over the Fire) as he continues to work his way back into United coach Ben Olsen’s rotation.
“The Montreal game and the Chicago game, he was a stud,” Olsen of one of his more veteran players. “He was a big part of why we won those two games. When Dejan’s on the field, we’re a better team. It’s just a matter of keeping him healthy and finding the right recipe for him to be more durable and make sure he’s on the field as much as possible.”
Indeed, injuries have pestered the 28-year-old Canadian international throughout his career as he played a total of 34 matches in 2010 and 2011 combined and 93 total matches in five years.
“Obviously, no one wants to be injured. It’s not a good feeling to be watching your team from the sideline,” Jakovic said. “But I worked hard and everyone else has been working hard. Everyone has stepped up their game. I’m just happy to be back there and contributing to the team.”
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Again playing for a United club that’s last in the league, as D.C. were in 2010, Jakovic feels different about the final three months of this season as compared to 2010. With an Open Cup finals date with Real Salt Lake looming on Oct. 1 and an influx of young players to breathe new life into the lineup, United have plenty to play for down the stretch.
“Definitely, we have a lot of young guns,” Jakovic said. “This is my fifth year here. Me and Chris [Pontius] are the longest players to be here. It’s a good group of guys that have come forward and are willing to learn. I’m just looking forward and I think there’s a bright future for some of them.”