A day in the life of ... Dema Kovalenko

With only 12 games left in our season, I know that now is the time for D.C. United to really step up and play the way we are capable of playing. As a five-year veteran and the player voted as the 2003 D.C. United Most Valuable Player, I feel that I need to be prepared to lead by example, both on the field in games and training sessions, to help our team achieve our goals.

Last year, I played some of my best soccer down the stretch. I scored several big goals during the stretch run to help us make the playoffs for the first time in three seasons. As a result, we have higher goals and expectations now and I need to make things happen again.

I think that our team is playing even better this year than last year. But, now, we're about to see exactly how good we are. We are injured and a lot of younger players need to perform, to show how deep our talent is. We have a lot of tough games ahead on the schedule. We play a lot of conference opponents and rivals. Two games each against the MetroStars and Fire. Two more with Columbus. Three with New England. The Eastern Conference is especially tight this season and everything could come down to the last game.

These are the things that really drive me as a soccer player. I love the pressure, the competition and I'm excited to play the remainder of the league season. I like the big games and I feel that my teammates count on me in these crucial situations. I train year around to be at my peak for the time when games matter most.

What counts is what happens at the end of the season. As I said, now is the time to step up and leave everything on the field in every game. That's what will make a difference in the end. That's what we all play for, the MLS Cup.

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