D.C. United’s central defense will take another hit nextweek, but thankfully, Dejan Jakovic’s absence won’t be due to injury. The Canadian earned a late call-up fromhis national team on Tuesday and will join Dwayne De Rosario from May 27through June 9 for a pair of World Cup qualifiers and a friendly against theU.S.
After starting consecutive matches against Seattle and NewEngland early in April, the 27-year-old defender missed seven contests whilerecovering from an ankle injury suffered against the Revolution. Jakovic came on for the final 64minutes of Saturday’s 3-1 win against Toronto FC and – with a expertlydelivered twenty-yard pass – started the 43rd minute sequence thatended in DeRo’s second goal of the night. While Jakovic had been told prior to Saturday that he was underconsideration, the solid performance in a game televised nationally across Canada,certainly didn’t hurt his national team chances.
“I’m sure it helped a little bit,” Jakovic acknowledged onTuesday. “For [Canadian head coachStephen Hart] to see that my ankle is fine and that I was able to go out thereand play well. I’m sure he watchedit.”
The upcoming break in D.C.’s schedule means that theCanadian duo shouldn’t miss a league match while on international duty. They will however miss one – if not two- U.S. Open Cup matches should United advance in the domestic cup competition. Ben Olsen has often noted a confidenceboost in players returning from their national team, and Jakovic hopes thattrend will continue in his case.
“It’s going to be important for me to play,” Jackovicexplained. “I haven’t been playing. I’ve been out a while, so to get some games will definitely be a goodthing.”
The Canadians face a difficult task as they try to qualifyto the World Cup Finals for the first time since 1986. In order to advance tothe fourth – and final – round of CONCACAF's eliminatory process, Les Rouges mustfinish in the top half of a group that includes Panama, Cuba and Honduras.
“We are in a tough group,” admitted Jakovic. “Honduras isgood, Panama is good and Cuba is not even bad. It’s going to be a big test for us. We didn’t do too well in the Gold Cup,but it is a fresh start and a new tournament.”
Canada will face the United States on June 3 beforeopening the third round of World Cup qualification June 8 with a visit toCuba. De Rosario and Jakovic arescheduled to return to D.C. after Canada’s June 12 qualification match againstHonduras in Toronto.