Questions, comments or suggestions? email me at:
Don't miss out a chance to win in our monthly "Croatianicity" t-shirt draw!
As well as our monthly Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic fridge magnet give away!

petak, 20. travnja 2012.

Former Hajduk Split & Canada National Team Player Ante Jazic

Ante Jazic of Chivas USA tackles David Beckham of the Los Angeles Galaxy in a 2009 playoff game. Victor Decolongon/Getty Images.

I'm not a follower of MLS, I usually watch and follow various European and Croatian league matches, (but perhaps strange to some, I don't really even post about them per se either, there's already tons of sites dealing with Croatian soccer players, the leagues they play in and the Croatian Soccer League (HNS) out there. They can sometimes even tell you what they ate for breakfast, favorite brand of sunglasses and a bunch of other tidbits.) but this is Croatian related blog afterall.  I was surprised though when I came across some video footage of a match being played in Portland to a large sold out crowd. Portland of all places?...Portland and sold out stadium soccer matches...interesting.

Football,..oops...I mean 'soccer'...(see vid below) has been growing in popularity in North America for some time now. .Especially lately since the start of MLS.  I recall as a kid following the precursor to the MLS, which at the time was called NASL, and I used to root for the local Toronto Blizzard soccer team, which is one of the historic teams that promoted the sport of soccer in Canada, and has a Croatian connection to it as well, namely Toronto Croatia. (Ivan Lukacevic was a very popular player I remember. He was one among a few players on the team that were Croatian. He was nicknamed "Big Luka/Luke" and was known for almost always winning the air war in heading the ball during matches. It was like he had anti-gravity shoes on or something. I always used to say I was gonna be him when we'd play a game in the park or somewhere.)

Then  I by chance came across this related article about Nick Dasovic, who it turns out is the Canadian National U-20 Head Coach, with an interesting soccer background on top of being of Croatian descent. As for Ante Jazic though, I've never heard of him, but this story was all over the place the last few days and he sure seems be enjoying LA it seems).



 Audio interview:

TORONTO – At 36, with stops in Croatia, Austria and Russia long behind him, Canadian fullback Ante Jazic is still going strong in MLS.

The Halifax native is in his seventh MLS season, all in Los Angeles. He started with the Galaxy before being traded “30 feet down the hallway” at the Home Depot Center to Chivas USA in 2009.

A model pro, Jazic has served club and country with distinction throughout his career.

Amazingly, he has started 108 of his 111 career regular season MLS games. There would have been more appearances, had it not been for a concussion, ankle surgery and time missed on Canadian national team duty.

MLS start No. 109 should come Saturday when Chivas (2-3-0) visits Toronto FC (0-4-0). Chivas’ backline of Jazic, Rauwshan McKenzie, Heath Pearce and James Riley has been a constant in front of goalie Dan Kennedy this season.

Recently engaged to a California girl, Jazic has loved his time in L.A.

“It’s been a blessing in disguise for me,” Jazic said. “Especially after coming from Russia. Going from Russia to Los Angeles, it’s been just a wonderful time in my life and I’ve enjoyed it thoroughly.”

Jazic spent close to two injury-plagued years in Russia from 2004 to 2006. He looks back at his stint with Kuban Kraznodar as a great experience, albeit not very enjoyable at the time.

“It was eye-opening to me,” he said. “That’s where I decided my career is very short, I want to go to a place where I enjoy my football and money wasn’t the primary issue. That’s why I came to MLS. I had a chance to go to Los Angeles with (then manager) Frank Yallop and I jumped at that opportunity.”

He could have made more elsewhere – this season marked a pay cut from the US$123,500 he earned last year – but southern California’s weather and lifestyle won him over. So has the soccer.

“It’s exciting times for Major League Soccer with the expansion and all the quality players coming in. I’m 36 years old and I appreciate every day I can play soccer professionally.”

He has no plans to retire at this stage. Friends who are former players have told him to keep going as long as he can.

“Last year I probably had my best year statistically,” he said of a seven-assist, 28-game campaign.

And he still enjoys going to work.

“I can’t imagine having a better profession and I’m going to try to stick with it as long as I can.”

Jazic was part of Canada’s World Cup qualifying campaign last year and hopes he can wear the Maple Leaf again. But he is realistic, given his age and the competition at left back.

“I would love to be involved if Stephen Hart needs me. I’m available. If the call comes, it would be my privilege to serve my country. .. If Stephen needs me, I’ll be ready. If not, I’ll be rooting for the team.”

Jazic lives in Redondo Beach, about a 20-minute drive from the Home Depot Center. He made the short move to the Chivas locker-room when he was traded during the 2009 SuperDraft.

That first year was marred by a concussion that sidelined him for half the season after a teammate volleyed the ball off the back of his head “from two yards away” in the last pre-season training session.

“It’s scary,” he said. “There’s no exact science to it … Every doctor has a different take on it. It’s a difficult injury to deal with, because as a player you feel fine one day and the next day you don’t feel great. It’s tough to deal with.”

He was out for three months and suffered from side-effects for a year after.

This season has been a strange one for Chivas so far, one that probably deserves better than a 2-3-0 record.

The team has lost all three games at home – on the wrong end of 1-0 scores to Houston, Vancouver and Sporting Kansas City – and won twice on the road. The Houston defeat came on a score deep in stoppage time.

“I don’t think any team’s outplayed us. We’ve been in every match,” said Jazic. “Obviously the three blemishes at home isn’t good but those games we played well. We just haven’t been able to score at home.

“We struggled offensively at home but on the road it’s been a different story. We’ve been really tidy defensively and been dangerous, so we’re close to turning the corner to being a decent team – definitely a playoff team – but we have to win home games obviously to make the playoffs in this league.”

Chivas has given up just four goals in its five games: two off set pieces, one in a scramble after a shot off the crossbar, and another on a goalie-defender miscue.

“Defensively we’ve been very solid,” said Jazic.

At the other end of the field, Chivas has missed veteran striker Juan Pablo Angel, who has been battling concussion symptoms. The hope is the 36-year-old Colombian might return to training next week.

In his absence, Chivas has managed just three goals.

The good news is two of them came last week, with English winger Ryan Smith assisting on both goals in a 2-1 win in Portland.

Jazic set up the other goal in the 1-0 victory at Real Salt Lake, dropping in a nice cross for rookie Casey Townsend to knock in.

After an 8-14-12 season last year and a poor record during the 2012 pre-season, Chivas is now moving in the right direction, says Jazic.

“It’s just a matter of learning how to win in this league, It’s a difficult league to play in, it’s physical. We’ve a lot of new players – I think 14 new players. So it takes time.”

Wins at Real Salt Lake’s Rio Tinto Stadium and Portland’s Jeld-Wen Field are valuable steps along that way.

“Difficult places to win. It shows the character we have,” said Jazic. “It’s just now getting on a run of games and winning some matches, especially at home.”

Jazic is hoping the unfriendly confines of Toronto’s BMO Field will produce another away win, although he knows the home side is desperate for points.


He has clearly done his homework.

“They had a good run in the CONCACAF (Champions League) and it’s difficult to play on two fronts with a limited roster size. I think they can focus on the league now. They’ve had a week now to prepare for the game, no midweek game. So I’m sure they’re going to be focused and ready to go to compete for 90 minutes against us.

“But we’ve been really good on the road and am looking forward to the challenge. Toronto’s a fun place to play.”

After a year at Dalhousie University, Jazic began his pro career in Croatia with Hrvatski Dragovoljac and Hajduk Split before moving to Rapid Vienna in Austria and then Russia.

As a result he also speaks Croatian, Russian and German although he laments losing all three for lack of practice.

He looks back at his time in Europe with fondness, savouring the “everyday pressure” of playing what is a showcase sport there.

He won titles with Hajduk Split and enjoyed his time at Rapid Vienna, which he calls an Austrian institution.

“I’ve been blessed to play with those two clubs.”

His last two seasons with the Galaxy overlapped the arrival of David Beckham.

He acknowledged the first season – 2007 – was “a circus” that took some getting used to. But he enjoyed his time with the Galaxy and has a lot of time for the former England captain.

“He’s a great guy, great father, great pro. He’s very humble. I’ve nothing but positive things to say about David Beckham, that’s for sure.”

A short highlight vid of what goes on at MLS games.

Featured post

And The Croatian City To Be A European Capital of Culture In 2020 Will Be...(Drum Roll).....Rijeka

Yep, I know it's still 2 years away and I already covered this topic last year when it was announced, but I added a few extra ima...