This is Part 22 in a series of articles on the players that make up the 2010 Los Angeles Galaxy.
The number eight is considered to be a lucky number in Chinese and other Asian cultures.
For Dema Kovelenko, he can bless his lucky stars that he has been bestowed with longevity as a fixture in Major League Soccer.
Kovalenko's MLS journey has seen him go through the Chicago Fire, D.C. United, New York Red Bulls, Real Salt Lake, and now the Los Angeles Galaxy.
Standing at a compact yet agile 5'8" (1.73 m), this veteran midfielder has also plied his trade in Germany and his native Ukraine. Kovalenko has already earned an Open Cup ring with the Fire and a MLS Cup with D.C. United. He will look to earn a second one as a member of the Galaxy.
Dmytro "Dema" Kovalenko was born on August 28, 1977 in Kiev, Ukraine. In those days, the Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, but the cracks in the Communist regime were beginning to form in droves up until its eventual dissolution in 1991.
A year after the Soviet Union broke up and a free and independent Ukraine was born, Kovalenko emigrated to the United States in 1992 and settled in Greece, New York, a suburb of Rochester. There, he took his love for the round ball to Greece Arcadia High School, where he starred in the midfield for the Titans en route to a scholarship to Indiana University, and legendary head coach Jerry Yeagley.
As a member of the Hoosiers, Kovalenko helped lead Indiana to a College Cup national championship in 1998. He was also named an NCAA first team All-American that season, as well as during the 1997 campaign. Kovalenko was also named as a MAC Hermann Trophy finalist in his final year. Overall, Dema Kovalenko tallied 45 goals and 15 assists in 57 appearances for the Indiana Hoosiers.
Kovalenko first burst onto the scene as a member of the Chicago Fire in 1999. Known for his physical presence, Kovalenko's most significant highlight of his rookie campaign was his tackle on Brandon Pollard of the Dallas Burn (now FC Dallas) in the MLS Cup playoffs, which ended his career. In spite of managing just 291 minutes and three goals in 11 appearances, the potential for Kovalenko to be a ferocious tackler in in the midfield was beginning to take form.
The following season, Kovalenko scored 10 goals and five assists in 31 appearances and 28 starts for the Fire en route to their U.S. Open Cup victory. In the 2000 campaign, Kovalenko had a pair of multi-goal games, scoring twice against the Columbus Crew on July 8 and the Colorado Rapids on September 3.
The success from 2000 carried over into 2001, where Kovalenko was named to the MLS All-Star Team. He scored eight goals and seven assists in 25 appearances with the Fire. This drew the attention of FC St. Pauli of the Bundesliga. During the offseason, Kovelenko played five matches for the Buccaneers on loan.
In 2002, Kovalenko wrapped up his career with the Chicago Fire, starting all 23 matches en route to his second All-Star appearance. Kovalenko finished his run scoring 26 goals in 108 appearances for the Chicago Fire.
Due to salary cap issues, Kovalenko was traded to D.C. United in exchange for Justin Mapp before the 2003 campaign. In his first season with D.C., Kovalenko scored six goals in 24 appearances.
However, it seemed as if Dema himself had a fondness for breaking a leg-literally. And a leg from Dallas, no less. A tackle on Ronnie O'Brien in a 2003 contest triggered a $1,000 fine and a one-game suspension.
Nonetheless in 2004, the physicality and intensity Kovalenko brought to the team—then managed by former Fire ace and current Philadelphia Union boss Peter Nowak—was not lost on the voters, who named Kovalenko to the All-Star team for the third time in his career. With a career-best 10 assists under his belt, Kovalenko helped lead D.C. United—Freddy Adu and all—to the 2004 MLS Cup.
2005 would go down as the last season for Kovalenko with D.C. United. He started 23 of his final 26 appearances for the club, in spite of missing the early part of the season due to a broken foot. Kovalenko wrapped up his career with D.C. United scoring 12 goals in 82 appearances.
For a brief time in his career, Kovalenko returned to his native Ukraine in 2006, seeing limited time with FC Metalurh Zaporizhzhya. However, it didn't seem to be a fit for the Ukrainian-American, and soon after, the New York Red Bulls acquired his rights.
In spite of making his debut in a 2006 friendly against FC Barcelona, it was not until 2007 that he started to get more playing time, managing 19 appearances.
However, groin and facial injuries suffered from an automobile accident limited his production in 2007. Kovalenko only managed two goals in 35 appearances for the Red Bulls before signing with Real Salt Lake.
In his only season with RSL, Kovalenko started 19 of his 22 appearances for the club. He helped lead Real Salt Lake to the postseason for the first time in their history before being eliminated by the New York Red Bulls in the Eastern Conference Final.
A new chapter in Kovalenko's footballing career began when he signed with the Los Angeles Galaxy in January 2009. In spite of missing three months of action due to injury, he appeared in 15 matches, including the Galaxy's first three postseason contests.
But for the Galaxy's No. 8, he wished that he did not fall ill before the 2009 MLS Cup against Real Salt Lake. Whether or not his presence would have made an impact on the match is a subject of debate and water under the bridge.
Still, Dema Kovalenko has been blessed with more than a decade of experience playing football professionally, and Galaxy fans can only hope that his luck will change if Los Angeles returns to the MLS Cup.