If Dema Kovalenko has to leave the LA Galaxy, he’d at least like to find himself back in the company of friends.
The veteran Galaxy midfielder said on the eve of Wednesday’s first-ever MLS Re-Entry Draft that if he’s picked up by another club, he’d like to once again ply his trade in the Eastern Conference, either with D.C. United, Philadelphia or Chicago.
Kovalenko is one of a number of proven veterans who face an uncertain future with the Re-Entry Draft, where other teams can choose to pick up a player’s contract under its existing terms. Players in the draft either have an expired contract or had their options declined by their teams, making them available for selection by a new club.
Other players who could potentially find themselves with a new team at the same pay rate are Juan Pablo Angel, Frankie Hejduk, Jimmy Conrad, Pat Onstad, Guillermo Barros Schelotto and Josh Wolff.
Kovalenko, for one, is curious about what will happen next for him and his fellow veterans. But he certainly has strong ties through his previous playing days in Chicago and D.C. United, as well as with Philadelphia Union coach Peter Nowak, with whom Kovalenko first bonded with as a rookie in Chicago in 1998.
Kovalenko won his only MLS Cup with Nowak at the helm of D.C. United in 2004. Kovalenko said he would feel comfortable back in the nation’s capital, where former teammate Ben Olsen is now running the show.
“When I had three years there, I was happy there. I knew people there,” Kovalenko said. “I think the fans like me there. It would be good for me.”
“At this point in my career, I just don’t want to go a place that’s something new to me and I have to change and again start from zero,” Kovalenko added. “If it happens, it happens... But I’d be more comfortable going somewhere where I was there before.”
Kovalenko has appeared in 24 regular-season games and made six postseason starts for the Galaxy since joining from Real Salt Lake in Jan. 2009. He battled injuries much of last season but returned in time for LA’s successful push for the Supporters’ Shield, and he started all three of the club’s playoff matches.
If Kovalenko is not selected by another club on Wednesday, he’ll have the option to renegotiate with the Galaxy for a smaller salary than what he made this season. He’s unsure how those negotiations will transpire, or if he’ll end up returning to LA.
But like many of the 35 players on the list for the Re-Entry Draft, getting picked up Wednesday is the ideal resolution to a new and unique opportunity in MLS.
“I’ve always been realistic and reasonable, and I think it’s a reasonable salary,” Kovalenko said. “Hopefully somebody takes me, because I still have a couple years left to help a team. And I think everybody’s in the same position who’s on that list.”
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