One of the toughest things a professional athlete can do is accept a role they may not be particularly thrilled about. As inherently competitive beings, no professional athlete wants to spend gamedays taking up space on the bench. No athlete wants to feel like a passenger while their team goes out and competes for wins. It's what makes it so difficult for some players to flip that switch when given the few opportunities they get. Having to walk that fine line between showing off your talent to prove you belong, while also playing within the confines of the team to not come across as selfish.
Then you have players like Dejan Joveljić. Those who are so confident in their abilities, so at peace with their efforts, that they aren’t fazed by the perceived lack of minutes. Understanding that sometimes all it takes is five minutes of brilliance to completely change a match.
“It’s hard for sure. I don't want to say that I’m frustrated, but I'm not satisfied” said the LA Galaxy striker on Saturday when asked his thoughts on the lack of minutes so far this season. Despite not seeing the pitch often — having only featured in six matches tallying a total of 51 minutes — he has done well to make the most of every opportunity he has. No moment bigger, so far, than his latest appearance and game-winning strike this past weekend.
In the team’s first-ever match against Western Conference newcomers Nashville SC, they faced a grind just to get shots off. While the team finished with 16 shots, only six were on target with seven from inside the box, and it didn’t feel like a match where Galaxy were peppering the goal. Nashville made it a point to defend, and did just that. Until the final minutes of the match, when head coach Greg Vanney brought in Joveljić. Just nine minutes after stepping onto the pitch, he netted the game winner.
“I know in my position is the best striker in the league [Chicharito], so I know I’ll get [fewer] minutes” said Joveljić after the match, “I need to wait for my chance, and tonight I showed I need to get more minutes, more than five” he finished with a smile.
It’s rare to see that mature outlook from a player, especially a young, talented one like Joveljic. Often times it's harder for those still in the youth of their careers to sit on the bench, but he isn't wrong. It’s going to be hard to break into the starting XI when the person directly in front of you is considered one of, if not the best in the league. However, his performances not just this season, but going back to last year as well when he got significant time while Chicharito was out with injury, show his stock is on the rise.
"I knew I was going to score."— LA Galaxy (@LAGalaxy) April 24, 2022
Dejan was really 10 moves ahead ♟ pic.twitter.com/pAXA66HYyh
Who knows, with how fluid Galaxy tend to play, we might get a glimpse at two strikers on the pitch. Maybe. We do know that’s something Dejan would enjoy, saying “I like training with Chicharito. It’s an amazing feeling to be with him on the field, I’m always happy and I want to play with him as two strikers, why not?”
One thing is for sure, opportunity has knocked. He won't necessarily need to score every time he hits the field — though that’s completely encouraged and welcomed — but more performances like this past weekend, with added improvement, and Joveljić will find his minutes growing sooner rather than later.
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