Despite layoff, Jakovic stellar in return vs Philly
During the club's recent 22-day break, Head Coach Ben Olsen had plenty of time to think about his starting eleven againstthe Philadelphia Union. One of themany spots where competition and improved health had created a depth chartlogjam was at central back, where Brandon McDonald, Emiliano Dudar and DejanJakovic were all fit and ready for minutes.
After spending much of the layoff away with the Canadiannational team, Jakovic seemed a likely candidate to find himself on the outsidelooking in against the Union. ButOlsen, despite the fact Jakovic didn't seen any game action with Canadainserted the 26-year-old next to McDonald in the heart of United's defense.
Some might have called it a bold move, but don't count Olsenamong them.
"No," United's coach answered flatly when asked if therehad been any hesitation on using Jakovic after the extended stay away fromD.C. "He has been training with the national team so I expected his sharpness level to be pretty high."
Against Philadelphia, Jakovic's contributions were as variedas they were important. In the 9thminute, he beat speedster Michael Lahoud in a pivotal foot race to a loose balldeep in United's end. A sprawlingeffort four minutes later saw the central defender keep a goal-bound shot fromJack McInerney from ever making it on frame. With the Union reigning down pressure on D.C.'s goal late inthe first half Jakovic came up big again, sliding to break up Michael Farfan'sdangerous surge into the penalty area.
"He came out strong," said goalkeeper Bill Hamid said ofJakovic. "Last ditch efforts,tackles, headers, he was in the right spot for everything. He had a great game."
"For him to come back from an international break and notget many minutes and come on the pitch and stay focused for the full ninetyspeaks volumes," added McDonald, who teamed with Jakovic for the sixth time in2012.
Jakovic's journey back into a starting spot has been farfrom easy. After re-emerging as afirst choice following a stand out performance against Seattle in early April,the Canadian injured his ankle a week later in New England. He'd miss the next seven contestsbefore entering as a sub on May 19 against Toronto. Jakovic played well against TFC and then New England on May 26, but timing again seemed to be working against the young defender.
The day before D.C.'s victory over the Revolution, Jakovic received a late call-up into Stephen Hart's side for World Cup qualifying.
"I know I can play and I know I can help the team," Jakovicsaid after his seventh appearance of the season. "It's just staying healthy and making sure I take care of mybody and the rest will happen. Ifeel confident in my ability."