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LA Galaxy 2022 Player Postmortem: Dejan Joveljić

You can’t hold him down.

Los Angeles Galaxy v Los Angeles Football Club: Western Conference Semifinals - 2022 MLS Cup Playoffs Photo by Shaun Clark/Getty Images

Imagine if the LA Galaxy didn’t have Dejan Joveljić in 2022.

The forward, back for his first full season with the club, really started to hit his stride, and his stats were truly impressive. In the Top 25 of scoring in regular season play, Joveljić only started seven games in the regular season, and only 10 across all competitions, finishing second in scoring on the team behind only Chicharito.

And yet, he only scored five goals as a starter across all competitions, with a staggering 10 goals scored off the bench. And his ability to rise to the moment again and again was impressive — he scored consequential goals in the regular season, U.S. Open Cup and the MLS Playoffs, all off the bench.

He had a lot of great moments, but this game against Austin FC, where he came off the bench and scored two goals and two assists to completely flip the game, is one of the best individual performances in MLS, period, in 2022.

Here are Joveljić’s competitive stats with the Galaxy in 2022:

Dejan Joveljić LA Galaxy 2022 Statistics

2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
2022 Games Played Games Started Minutes Goals Assists Shots SOG Yellow Cards Red Cards
Regular Season 32 7 983 11 3 34 22 3 0
U.S. Open Cup 4 3 242 3 0 13 6 0 0
Playoffs 2 0 8 1 0 1 1 0 0
Total 38 10 1,233 15 3 48 29 3 0

The conundrum of the season turned out to be how much playing time Greg Vanney gave Joveljić. Chicharito led the line and did a fantastic job and again, he led the team in scoring. Obviously he was a starter. Vanney wanted to use a single central striker, with two wide forward/wingers flanking that No. 9, which would mean Joveljić didn’t have an automatic spot in the starting XI, which is bizarre. Beyond Chicharito and Riqui Puig, was Joveljić LA’s best player? You could make a legit case he was the third-best player on the team, and yet he played 38 games but only 10 starts along the way.

On the other hand, his production largely came off the bench. I think if he were a regular starter, he would also be productive, to be fair, but even though the Serbian chafed at having to come off the bench, he largely validated Vanney’s lineup decisions with his ability to enter games late and provide goals. In that way, he possibly hurt his own cause by following orders and making the most of his short playing time, but then again, he’s a professional and that’s what is expected of pros.

Joveljić’s scouting report graph on, comparing his performances across eight comparable global leagues, shows he’s truly an elite attacker.

All in all, Joveljić is legit, and while I think we all wish Vanney played him more, he was truly outstanding given the limitations placed on his playing time.

Plus, credit to Joveljić for not only publicly lobbying for more playing time, and talk with a charming swagger when he was put in front of the microphones, but keeping the production up even as it became obvious Vanney wasn’t going to permanently switch his formation to fit Joveljić and Chicharito in the starting XI and still playing well regardless.

Joveljić remains under contract through 2025 and unless a European club makes a good transfer bid for him in January (always possible but I haven’t heard any chatter so far) he should be back for 2023. He should get more playing time. Obviously Chicharito stayed healthy this year but hadn’t been the two years prior, and if he has to miss time, Joveljić is probably the very best insurance policy in MLS.

But it’s clear, Joveljić is better than being an insurance policy, and the future is now, in a manner of speaking. Especially given the lack of production from Kevin Cabral and Douglas Costa, actual Designated Players who were truly unproductive, it seems patently unfair to bench a productive player in favor of two guys getting paid way more and providing much less. I realize their roles aren’t the same and we don’t want to see Chicharito and Joveljić running into the same spots on the field over and over again and wasting scoring chances, but surely these guys are smart enough to play together.

Regardless of how he’s deployed, if Joveljić is back next season, as expected, I think the aim should be 20 goals in the season. Let’s face it, he’s good enough that he could hit a heater and go for the MLS Golden Boot, so 20 goals don’t seem unreasonable. If that happens, the Galaxy are likely to be contenders and he’ll surely be getting the attention, leaguewide and maybe even back in Europe, that he deserves. We can only hope.

What do you think? Leave a comment below.