Good for Bruce Arena for acquiring some veteran leadership and fiery competitiveness. Now that his trade to the Galaxy has been announced, I can appreciate and admire Dema Kovalenko, and all he's done for MLS. His tenacity and dedication to....
The original plan for this post was going to be a 180 turnaround, for absolutely no reason than his change of work clothes. Then I'd see if anyone called me on it. But I just can't go through with it.
I'm perfectly capable of judging him on his soccer merits. He's 31, and last season had exactly one assist more than Alvaro Pires. And the Galaxy are apparently going to play him out of position - on the roster, he's listed as "F."
Well, to be fair, "F Dema Kovalenko" is something I heartily endorse. But the Galaxy have players ahead of him in Kovalenko's natural positions - Beckham, Klein, Brandon McDonald. Kovalenko also had all of one more assist than McDonald last year, although to be fair Dema did only play six hundred minutes more.
Feel free to bring up all the intangibles he brings to the locker room. I'll feel equally free to point out that he woofed like Lassie before both matches against the Red Bulls last year, but was a pair of empty shorts in the actual games.
Both Dema Kovalenko and Dave van den Bergh were in the shop window this offseason. Even if you're a huge Dema fan, how do choose Column A? Huh, Bruce?
Also, and stop me if I pointed this out, I can't and won't cheer for a guy whose M.O. is to deprive a fellow player of his livelihood. I put up with Luis Hernandez, whose foul on Peter Nowak in the Open Cup in 1999 was disgusting. I put up with Carlos Ruiz, probably the single least sportsmanlike player alive.
That's where I draw the line between a tough player and a disgrace to the game. And that's where I would really question a player who welcomes Kovalenko as a teammate. So, it's not your leg at risk - anymore - until he gets traded yet again. That doesn't make it acceptable to approach the beautiful game with the ethics of Thrasymachus and the tactics of "Showgirls."
For another thing, what's to stop the other guys from hiring a younger, faster Kovalenko equivalent? Your shin guards are that good? Let's say Landon is forced to come back to LA (FREE LANDON!), or Beckham is back in Carson strolling around the fields divots, and some clumsy 2.0 GPA Superdraft leftover snaps his tibia and fibula.
I couldn't say jack about it. Because my team cuts a check to Snappy McStudsup every two weeks.
I'm not saying Dema Kovalenko can't make a living being a tough guy. It's probably a little late for him to learn to skate and join the NHL - although they didn't have ice in the freaking Ukraine? But no matter - the octagon is ready when he is. Let him take on Brock Lesnar. He'd make more money, with the downside that he won't be able to wear cleats, and his opponents will see him coming. Soccer is not hockey, let alone the UFC, and our game does not allow for or need enforcers.
But it's Bruce Arena's team now. Emphasis on now.
By August or so, when the Galaxy are looking across at Seattle and Chivas USA, and up at everyone else - when yet another badly thought out big name coaching move has blown up in AEG's face - it won't be his team.
I was here before Kovalenko. I was here before Arena. I was even here before Anschutz and Leiweke. And I'll be there after they're gone. I got time. This too shall pass.
It'll be ten yards behind the forward and out for a throw-in. But nevertheless, it will pass.