CARSON, Calif. – The season may not have gone the way that Chivas USA would have imagined, but one of the brightest lights this season has been the steady play of Ante Jazic.
The veteran left back leads Chivas USA in assists with seven this season, and all of his assists have come from the run of play. And although Jazic may fly under the radar compared to defender Heath Pearce or goalkeeper Dan Kennedy, his recent call from the Canadian national team indicates that even at 35 years old, his work hasn’t gone unnoticed.
“The system that the coaching staff has implemented, where they want the outside backs moving forward through our possession style, has allowed me to get further up the field and in better positions to cross the ball,” Jazic told MLSsoccer.com. “I think that it's a reflection of the way we play, which has just allowed me to get into better starting points.”
His ability to make clever crosses and well-timed runs has only been supplemented by the arrival of Juan Pablo Ángel. Jazic's service has led to just a single goal by Ángel, but he has routinely helped to create even more scoring chances for the formidable striker.
While Jazic's ability to contribute to attack is one of his finest attributes, he has also contributed a great deal on defense. With impressive speed for his age, opposing attacks are often stifled by the veteran defender.
“More than his output offensively, he's been solid in the back as well,” Pearce said. “When we played together, we had a good understanding and there wasn't a lot of danger coming down the left side. I knew his strengths and weaknesses well and he knew mine, so we were very comfortable playing alongside one another.”
Although Chivas will end their season on Saturday against Seattle without a playoff appearance, Jazic will still have much to play for after the season ends. In November, Canada will resume their campaign to advance to the third round of CONCACAF World Cup qualifying with two matches against St. Kitts and Nevis.
Fresh off one of the finest years in his career, Jazic can't help but smile at the way that he's been playing lately.
“I think that's a combination of the system that we play and [strength and conditioning coach] Jim Liston plays a major role in keeping us fresh as well,” Jazic said. “I feel fit and I feel strong, my body feels great and I feel better now than I have in the last three years.
“Things have come together and I just feel really good right now.”
Adam Serrano covers Chivas USA for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.