According to the Washington Post’s Soccer Insider blog, MLS veteran Dema Kovalenko, 33, has decided to hang up his boots.
Since those boots were involved in many a reckless challenge in his 12-year career, including two that broke players’ legs (Brandon Pollard in 1999 and Ronnie O’Brien in 2003), we can’t say we’re sorry to see him go.
A blocky, 5-8 midfielder born in Ukraine, Kovalenko emigrated in 1992 to Rochester, New York, where he attended Greece Arcadia High School and drew the attention of D-I college scouts after an outstanding high-school career. He played three years of college ball at Indiana, helping the Hoosiers win the 1998 NCAA title and earning first-team All-America honors that season.
He played for the Chicago Fire in his first MLS season, and made stops in D.C. (where he won an MLS Cup in 2004), New York, Salt Lake, and Los Angeles, for whom he made nine appearances last season.
Kovalenko also did two brief stints abroad, with FC St. Pauli in 2001-02, and Ukrainian side FC Metalurh Zaporizhya in 2006.
He gained a reputation as a feisty central midfielder—or thuggish, depending on who was doing the talking. Dallas fans and execs definitely fall in the latter group. Both Pollard and O’Brien were Dallas players. Pollard’s career was effectively ended by Kovalenko’s bone-breaking tackle, and while O’Brien returned to action, he told the Dallas Morning News that Kovalenko threatened to break his leg again after a challenge during a game the following season.
Here’s reporter Steve Davis:
D.C. United tough guy Dema Kovalenko has added yet another layer of contempt between himself and the Burn by allegedly threatening to break Ronnie O’Brien’s leg again. O’Brien said something as he got up when Kovalenko quickly approached him and, according to O’Brien, responded with, “I’ll break your leg again.”
Kovalenko retires as MLS’s all-time leader in playoff yellow cards with 13.