WASHINGTON — An improving D.C. United defense is set to get a boost this week, as central defender Dejan Jakovic (pictured above) was back in training on Tuesday for the first time since the end of May.
The Croatian-born, Canadian international was slated to play in this summer’s CONCACAF Gold Cup, but a hamstring injury suffered in a pre-tournament friendly against Ecuador on June 1 knocked him out of the competition, and out of the DC lineup, for several weeks longer than initially anticipated.
“It feels great to be back,” Jakovic told reporters after training. “[The hamstring] feels good, no problems, just trying to get my fitness up.”
Jakovic’s last appearance for DC came back on May 29, a 3-2 win against the Portland Timbers at JELD-WEN Field. In his absence, rookies Perry Kitchen and Ethan White have filled in until the recent move to acquire Brandon McDonald was made by DC two weeks ago.
Since bringing in McDonald, Kitchen has shifted out to the right, with the new acquisition starting the last two games alongside White. Jakovic will look to break his way into the new-look lineup, with a central pairing of him and McDonald a strong possibility.
Defensively, it’s been something of a roller coaster ride for DC’s back line, which has allowed the third-most goals in the league, but United managed a 1-0 shutout over the weekend against rivals New York.
As of now, it’s still too soon to know if Jakovic will be ready to jump back into the lineup against FC Dallas this weekend.
“This is the first day he’s trained so we have to evaluate him this week,” head coach Ben Olsen said. “It’s good that he got through today.”
Said Jakovic of his possible availability: “It’s just a fitness issue. I feel good, I’ve been running a lot, [and] we’ll see how it goes.”
A lot has changed since Jakovic’s last appearance — not only did the club go out and bring in McDonald to beef up the back line, but they also made the move for Jakovic’s Canadian teammate, Dwayne De Rosario.
“I don’t even know what to say about him,” Jakovic said of De Rosario. “He’s amazing, had a big goal [against New York] … and can put the ball in the back of the net.”
Travis Clark covers D.C. United, College and Youth soccer for MLSsoccer.com. Follow him on Twitter: @travismclark.