Dejan Joveljić rescues a tie and a point for the LA Galaxy

LA Galaxy's Dejan Joveljić running on June 18, 2022
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Picking up right where he left off before the international break, Los Angeles Galaxy super-sub Dejan Joveljić turned up once again when the Galaxy needed him most.  Joveljić’s goal at the death tied the score 1-1 against the Portland Timbers and salvaged a point for L.A. on Saturday afternoon.

“I mean, it was a good finish, but the cross was better,” Joveljić claimed of the sequence that tied the game in a post-match press conference. But as good as Julian Araujo’s cross was, it had to be Joveljić that would put it away. 

Dejan Joveljić rescues a tie and a point for the Galaxy

Now tied for first on the team with seven goals plus two assists in 16 appearances (3 starts) across all competitions this year, Joveljić is quickly becoming the Galaxy’s most dependable player. But he probably wouldn’t have gotten the chance to rescue the Galaxy or have an impact had Víctor Vázquez not been forced off on 32 minutes. 

No sooner had the Spaniard made way for Joveljić, though, than Portland launched a killer counterattack that the Galaxy failed to deal with in 37 minutes. A flutter of eyelashes, a Sebastian Blanco pass, and a Yimmi Chara goal later, the Galaxy found themselves down at home once again. 

Just like against Austin FC, the Galaxy would be forced to chase the game, and despite creating decent chances went into halftime trailing.

Several good chances went begging in the second half for L.A. too. A Derrick Williams free header went wide, only to be matched by an errant Chicharito shot while unmarked at the back post. Add a few no-calls and refusals to consult VAR for potential penalties, and it looked like it wouldn’t be the Galaxy’s day.

Dejan Joveljić the hero again

But the second half is where Joveljić has been thriving.  

The Serbian Striker has notched a goal in three consecutive matches across all competitions,  recording four goals and two assists during that span. With 1.27 goals scored per 90 minutes played amongst all players that have played at least 275 minutes this season, Joveljić ranks first in MLS in goals scored per 90 minutes played. He is the first Galaxy player to score a goal in back-to-back matches in league play as a substitute since Edson Buddle accomplished the feat in 2009. According to MLS, Joveljić also became the first player since Maxi Moralez to contribute five 2nd-half goals + assists over a two-game span in 2019.

And so it was no surprise to see Joveljić rise high before Portland Defender Larrys Mabiala to power a glancing header past Portland Goalkeeper Aljaz Ivacic in the 88-minute to tie it up. 

And despite not playing their best, the Galaxy almost stole this game. A Nick Depuy goal was called back in injury time for a push on a Portland defender, with the game ending moments after. Joveljić’s goal would ensure the Galaxy would remain unbeaten in the last three games. It is also further proof that he and Chicharito can play together.

Master and apprentice

LA Galaxy's Dejan Joveljić scoring on June 18, 2022
LA Galaxy’s Dejan Joveljić scores game-tying goal – Photo credit to the Los Angeles Galaxy on June 18, 2022.

It was the longest look that Galaxy fans had at seeing Javier “Chicharito” Hernández and Dejan Joveljić together in a two-forward system. 

Despite the tying goal from Joveljić, Galaxy Head Coach Greg Vanney spoke of the pros and cons of playing in a 3-5-2 formation with two strikers.

“In the end, again, we found a solution. He [Dejan Joveljić] scored. Great run to the near post, got in front of the defender, a great ball that he redirects. But, there’s a tradeoff when you play with two forwards. And what do you lose, and what do you gain from doing something like that,” Vanney posed. “But it’s something that we can certainly look at in the right moments or the right scenarios are there for us.”

The younger of the two strikers, Vanney conceded that Joveljić is doing the hard defensive work required of him to put himself on the field. In this way, he and Chicharito can build understanding. 

“He’s going to get his chances through collective play, through timed movements, through good balls into good spots, through the way we’ve seen him score goals over the last few weeks. So, again, when their movements are connected to each other, then they can be I think a powerful duo,” Vanney explained.

Trophy time in L.A.?

However you look at it, Joveljić takes his chances and always seems to be turning up in the “right moments.”

Defender Julian Araujo agreed. 

“Anything you give to him; he’s going to put away. Even in training, he is finishing. He is doing what he does, that’s why he’s getting his time,” Araujo expressed.

Joveljić will get another chance to impress Vanney Tuesday night. He’ll make his case for playing time when the Galaxy takes on Sacramento Republic FC at home in the quarter-final of the U.S. Open Cup at 10:30 p.m. ET. If the Galaxy wins, it will be the first time the Galaxy would earn a semi-final berth in any competition since 2017. 

Photo Credit: Los Angeles Galaxy on June 18, 2022.