Truth be told, I’ve always remembered midfielder Dema Kovalenko more for his temper and two crunching tackles that broke the legs of Dallas defender Brandon Pollard (ending his career) and Ronnie O’Brien (almost ending his) than his work rate on the field.
Galaxy Coach Bruce Arena, who had Kovalenko in his team with the Red Bulls, was I’m guessing looking for a bit of steel in what was on occasion a rather limp midfield last season and looked even worse this year with the departures of Pete Vagenas and Alvaro Pires.
“From the roster that was inherited and remained at the end of the year we needed to shore up our defensive midfield position,” Arena said of the thinking behind signing Kovalenko from Real Salt Lake in a draft eve deal. “I think Stefani Miglioranzi and Dema make us stronger in that position.
“He’s a ball-winner, he’s an experienced player there and again that’s a position where we didn’t have an experienced player last year and it showed,” Arena added. “He can win the ball, he’s a good passer and he’s a good communicator.”
I spoke with Kovalenko Friday after his first training session with the Galaxy:
Question: You’ve played with eight teams (including two overseas) in an 11-year professional career. Is this it for you?
Answer: It’s tough to move all the time, but it’s the way you live – it happens that way in a soccer player’s life. But hopefully it’s the last stop for me. I’ve known Bruce a long time, I respect him a lot and I’m glad that I’m here. He gave me that chance – I played for him in New York and then he left and I’m glad I’m playing for him (again). I know what he expects from me and I know what I have to do – play hard and make the team better.
Q: How can you help the Galaxy?
A: He knows what I can bring – it’s what this league is about. It’s about working hard. Its not always about players who can score goals. You’ve got to have a chemistry, you’ve got to have different kinds of players. This team has to get better – it’s three years now they’ve not been in the playoffs.
Q: How much longer can you play?
A: I’m not ready to stop y’know. I’m going to be 32 this summer, I still want to play a few more years. But, I think I can still physically do it and I want to win and that’s the main thing. Every time I step on the field I want to compete – I still want to win a championship. I only won one with D.C. and that’s what we all play for – to win something – because when you’re done you’re done. It’s important when you’re done with your career you remember something.