CHICAGO—Before signing as a Homegrown Player in January and making his MLS debut this season, Djordje Mihailovic had been hanging around the Chicago Fire for a while. The Lemont, Illinois native, son of a former NASL pro, joined the Fire academy in 2013 and gradually began training with the first team as well.
That’s when Mike Magee remembers first meeting Mihailovic.
“I started training with him, I think a little bit in 2013 -- he was probably 9 years old,” joked Magee, a former MLS MVP for Chicago and the current MLS Homegrown Team coach. “He’s great. He’s great on the ball and he’s come a long way. You can tell his confidence, he’s slowly becoming a little bit of a leader, probably with this group a little more so than the Fire. So just trying to get that out of him. He’s a player that can dictate the game, so tomorrow I need that out of him. It’s fun, it’s fun seeing him succeed.”
On Wednesday, Magee and Brian McBride will coach Mihailovic and the rest of the MLS Homegrown Team against Chivas de Guadalajara’s Under-20 team in the 2017 MLS Homegrown Game presented by Energizer (8pm ET | UDN, facebook.com/univisiondeportes; MLS LIVE in Canada).
“It’s definitely an honor to play and represent my hometown club and hometown city in the Homegrown Game,” Mihailovic said, at Fire training last week. “It’s definitely something to look forward to, playing especially for two coaches that played for the club, and one of them grew up not too far from where I grew up.”
At Monday’s Homegrown Team training session, held at Flames Field on the University of Illinois-Chicago campus, Mihailovic saw the competitiveness of the former Fire players in their coaching.
“The first thing I noticed in both of them, especially Mike because I played with him, is his competitiveness and his willing to win,” Mihailovic said Monday. “So he’s not taking this game lightly, he knows and everybody knows that we’re going to try to win the game.”
Mihailovic said the coaches told him he’s expected to start and play the full 90 minutes. It would mark his first 90 minutes of the MLS seasons after making seven substitute appearances thus far for the Fire. Mihailovic said that fitness to go a full match shouldn’t be a problem.
“Djordje is good,” McBride said. “There’s not a player out there that’s not technically talented, which is great to see. They’re young guys, so a lot of them have played some minutes, a lot of them have played extensive minutes for their clubs … I think this is going to be a lot of fun for them tomorrow.”
Mihailovic said he’s expecting about 30 friends and family in attendance on Tuesday night, the latest high point in his rookie season.
He hopes to showcase his smarts:
“Center of the pitch -- that’s where the smart players usually play, and that’s where I’m trying to play right now,” he said. “First game I’m playing 90 in a long time, so hopefully I play well.”