D.C. United central defender Dejan Jakovic returned from Canadian National Team duty in Doha, Qatar eager to resume MLS action after missing last Saturday’s 2-1 loss to the Columbus Crew. The 27-year-old defender earned his 14th and 15th starts against Japan and Belarus, respectively, registering 16 international caps overall. After playing all 90 minutes in both games, Jakovic arrived back in the nation's capital on Tuesday to join the Black-and-Red as it takes advantage of a bye week to prepare for Sporting Kansas City (Friday, April 5; 8:30 pm ET).
While Canada dropped both friendly matches, Jakovic gained experience to further prepare for future competitive tournaments. In the first match, Jakovic and the Canada Men’s National Team took on Japan on March 22. Canada fought back from an early Japan goal (9’) to tie the score at 1-1 shortly after halftime (58’). Despite the gritty battle, Canada went on to lose 2-1. A short three days later, Canada faced Belarus, who emerged victorious, beating Canada 2-0.
“[Japan and Belarus] were obviously quality sides,” Jakovic said. “It was a great test for us. It was great preparation for the Gold Cup coming up.”
The Canada Men’s National Team are 0-1-3 in 2013, losing to Denmark on January 26, tying the USMNT on January 29, then dropping both friendlies in Qatar. But, the Canadian international didn’t spend all of his time on the pitch while in Qatar. Jakovic enjoyed time off in downtown Doha, exploring a five-story mall with teammates and interacting with locals, whom Jakovic described as “very friendly.”
While Jakovic was competing for Canada, however, the Black-and-Red was focused on its March 23 match against the Columbus Crew. The game was the 12th match United played without Jakovic since March 30, 2012, the date of the first win of the club’s home-undefeated streak. The Crew defeated the Black-and-Red 2-1, ending United’s undefeated mark at RFK Stadium at 19 games. Jakovic helped in the only way he could: tweeting his support to his “DCU Family” before the game.
Jakovic watched a live stream of the game and felt United was lacking confidence and dangerous possession, but he complimented the Black-and-Red backline, explaining those who stepped in, stepped up.
“I thought they did a pretty good job,” Jakovic said. “Obviously, they’re playing against some quality players with [Federico] Higuain and [Dominic] Oduro.”
“It was a good unit,” added United goalkeeper Bill Hamid immediately following the match. “The backline did extremely well, especially [since] it was makeshift.”
As the Canadian center back returns to training, he says the team is focused on finding the forwards’ feet, laying the ball off to allow time for the defenders to join the attack, and playing with more confidence overall.
“We have a very talented squad,” Jakovic said. “We just have let loose and play our game…because the talent is definitely there.”