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Posted at 8:05 PM ET, 02/14/2011

MLS veteran Dema Kovalenko is retiring

By Steve Goff

Dema Kovalenko, the feisty midfielder who helped D.C. United win its most recent MLS Cup title and was on a playoff team in each of his 12 seasons, told the Insider that he is retiring.

"I'm done," he said in a telephone conversation Monday. "I'm just not healthy anymore [referring to a back injury and other ailments]. I was interested in coming back, but when I started running on my own, I just didn't enjoy it anymore -- getting my body ready for another season."

Kovalenko, 33, made nine league appearances last year for the Los Angeles Galaxy, which did not exercise the option on his contract. He wasn't selected in the re-entry drafts in December, and although he said there were opportunities to continue playing, he would've had to accept about half of what he earned last year ($144,000).

For much more.....

A native of Ukraine, Kovalenko moved to western New York as a teenager and starred at Indiana University. He began his career in 1999 with the Chicago Fire and was traded to United in '03 for Justin Mapp. He moved to the New York Red Bulls in 2006 and Real Salt Lake in '08 before playing two seasons with the Galaxy. His career high for goals was 10 (in 2000) and assists was 10 in 2004, when United won its fourth league title.

His reputation preceded him, however. Twice he was involved in incidents that left Dallas players with broken legs.

How would he like to be remembered?

"I know there are a lot of guys who don't like me because of the way I played sometimes, but the guys who were my teammates understand what I'm about," he said. "I'm not perfect. I had some bad moments. But I hope I'm remembered as a hard worker, someone who always sacrificed for the team, who always wanted to win so badly. I always competed. I gave it everything."

By Steve Goff  | February 14, 2011; 8:05 PM ET
Categories:  D.C. United, MLS  | Tags:  D.C. United, Dema Kovalenko, MLS  
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Next: Charlie Davies, D.C. United update


33 days until United's first 2011 league match!

Posted by: Curious99 | February 14, 2011 8:16 PM | Report abuse

And all the best to Dema going forward. He'll always be a true competitor.

Posted by: Curious99 | February 14, 2011 9:14 PM | Report abuse

Couple of Dema memories:

When he played for his Rochester club team, I remember seeing him at the NCSL Capital Cup, a U19 showcase tournament that, unfortunately, no longer exists. He was a dominant player then, and I remember hearing rumors he had already committed to Indiana. It was November his senior year, and his team won the tournament.

When he was with United, he rocketed a goal in the net under the big clock, then proceeded to sprint off the field, past the United bench and toward... me! I ran to the railing and, as he jumped up into the stands, double high-fived me while we both screamed like lunatics. I think United included the run in one of it's marketing promos.

He played with passion, and the injuries he caused somewhat dampens my enthusiasm for him. But in the end, at his prime I'd want him on my team.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 14, 2011 9:26 PM | Report abuse

Like that old SNL skit about the 11 "Ditkas", if you had 11 "Demas" you would win the Cup.

Posted by: griffin1108 | February 14, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse

Kudos to Dema. He never looked tired, bored or confused on the pitch. Always played with purpose.

It had to be nice to see him wearing the same colors if you were one of the 22 playing...

Posted by: JkR- | February 14, 2011 9:43 PM | Report abuse

Tough player, hard worker but truth be told he was dirty some if not most of the time. He gave you what he had - what he lacked in skill he more than made up for in...tenacity. Good luck Dema.

My Dema moment (I have many of them and they are not all positive, if I'm being honest) was after he broke Ronnie O'Brien's leg and a fan in Dallas had a sigh that read "Dema Got Me". Funny and sad all at the same time (but still mostly funny).

Like I said, good luck Mr. Kovalenko.

Posted by: Kosh2 | February 14, 2011 9:55 PM | Report abuse

Don't forget to make your free transfers if you've got an Argy Bargy Goff squad. Champions League comes back tomorrow.

Posted by: DadRyan | February 14, 2011 10:26 PM | Report abuse

Note to self... never compete with Curious99 in a contact sport.
My favorite Dema moment is today.

Posted by: jake77 | February 14, 2011 11:04 PM | Report abuse

Remember last week when I asked if anybody had any idea why four non-Turkish teams played friendlies in Antalya, Turkey and y'all said "Duh, it's not Estonia in winter"?

Ok, so no one else remembers that, but now I got my answer: match fixing.

Posted by: benonthehill | February 15, 2011 12:53 AM | Report abuse

Free Samples are offered for a limited time so when they are posted please take advantage of the offer before it is gone. Look online for "123 Get Samples" where I was able to get healthy product samples.

Posted by: annegonzales123 | February 15, 2011 3:07 AM | Report abuse

I remember when Dema scored in a USOC match at the 'Plex. I think the opponent was the Pittsburgh Riverhounds. Anyway, an exuberant Demo runs over to the corner where a ball kid was standing - the kid must have been 8 or 9 - picks him up and hugs him. After a couple of seconds, Dema lost his balance and fell over on top of the kid, but continued to hug him. It went from cute to skeevy in a short time.

Good luck Dema.

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 15, 2011 7:12 AM | Report abuse

Hey FIFA! Take THAT!

Posted by: I-270Exit1 | February 15, 2011 7:21 AM | Report abuse

I am amused.

This tidbit is circulating the interwebs, apparently without any sourcing or detail:

"DC United could decide to pursue Greek centre-back Sotirios Kyrgiakos (31) when his contract with Liverpool expires at the end of the season."

Yeah, right.

Posted by: fischy | February 15, 2011 9:02 AM | Report abuse

Technically, that's true. They could pursue him, just like I could fly if I had wings.

Posted by: Reignking | February 15, 2011 9:32 AM | Report abuse

if you had 11 "Demas" you would win the Cup.

Posted by: griffin1108 | February 14, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse


If you had 11 "Demas", you'd be playing shorthanded a lot.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 15, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

if you had 11 "Demas" you would win the Cup.

Posted by: griffin1108 | February 14, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse


If you had 11 "Demas", you'd be playing shorthanded a lot.

Posted by: OWNTF | February 15, 2011 9:40 AM | Report abuse

@benonthehill I do remember that clearly. Congrats to you for spotting the irregularity. Match fixing is such a shame (also a sham).

I don't believe, however, that the federations had no clue and that they are mere victims of unscrupulous match organizers. If they wanted to get away with it, how silly of them to let all goals be scored on penalty kicks. - and then to re-take one that didn't go in... Pa-leeze!

Posted by: WorldCup | February 15, 2011 9:41 AM | Report abuse

CL restarts...reset those fantasy teams.

Posted by: Reignking | February 15, 2011 9:55 AM | Report abuse

Soccer America reports the retirement of Ronaldo (the non-Cristiano one). Also, Argentina will not be defending its Olympic men's gold medal, having been eliminated in qualifying.

Posted by: universityandpark | February 15, 2011 10:25 AM | Report abuse

Lack of Davies signing is making me insane.

Posted by: UnitedDemon1 | February 15, 2011 10:57 AM | Report abuse

Dema would make a good conditioning coach for someone. Good luck, Dema. Will miss you.

Posted by: VirginiaFan | February 15, 2011 11:00 AM | Report abuse

I would have to imagine the signing will happen before the team heads to California. Both sides need each other too much for it to fall apart now.

Posted by: fedssocr | February 15, 2011 11:36 AM | Report abuse

20/20 hindsight sees Justin Mapp for Dema Kovalenko as one of the best trades DC United ever made.

Even if it did look a bit like trading away young skillful attacking potential for a 2-footed pitbull...

Posted by: Joel_M_Lane | February 15, 2011 11:50 AM | Report abuse

I hear Dema bought a pair of pit bulls. He named them Tibia and Fibia.

Posted by: Rand-al-Thor | February 15, 2011 12:44 PM | Report abuse

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