Djordje Mihailovic is one player who is expected to have a busy 2021 as he tries to continue his impressive development at both the club and international level.
Mihailovic will begin the upcoming MLS season in new colors after being acquired by the Montreal Impact in a trade last December, shifting from the Chicago Fire, a place where he’s been involved since 2013. After only making one appearances in the MLS Cup Playoffs over his four seasons so far, the 22-year-old will now aim to reach that goal of winning trophies with the Impact, a team who has also struggled for consistency of late.
“This move has been a long time coming for me,” Mihailovic said in a conference call Tuesday. “I think this move is good for me and for the Fire alike. It took a lot of time and a lot of thinking to figure out the right destination for me. Talking with the club and the ownership group in Chicago we all felt it was the best thing going forward.”
“For me personally I was at the club for almost a decade and I wondered what would be best for me in my career going forward. Now I have the opportunity in Montreal and I have certain expectations on my shoulder now. It’s important for players to have these kinds of pressure and I am looking forward to next season with Montreal.”
Mihailovic is not only expected to play a major role in Thierry Henry’s squad this season, but also within the U.S. Men’s National Team ranks whether it be with the senior squad or Under-23’s. The Illinois native is coming off his best domestic season to date in 2020, registering a career-high seven assists to go along with two goals in 20 MLS appearances.
Mihailovic has made six appearances for the USMNT to date, but only one of those came in 2020 with the COVID-19 pandemic impacting the team’s schedule. The attacking midfielder is also eligible to play for Jason Kreis’ squad, who will begin its Concacaf Olympic Qualifying Tournament in March with hopes of reaching the rescheduled Summer Olympics in Tokyo.
“I think everyone here knows the importance of this coming year and especially Olympic Qualifiers,” Mihailovic said. “We all know the last two cycles didn’t go well for us and this is a major priority in the whole of U.S. Soccer. I don’t think we’re necessarily favorites to win the tournament, we know the quality in Concacaf and it’s going to be a difficult road down there [in Mexico].”
“We know we have the quality and talent to win the tournament though and we will want to achieve our goals. Right now that is our main focus and this camp with the senior players is definitely helping with our preparations for that.”
Mihailovic may only have eight combined appearances between the USMNT and Under-23’s, but he remains an experienced option for both groups in 2021. He’s already contributed in four MLS seasons before hitting his 23rd birthday and will now have a new opportunity on the club and international level.
The fifth-year pro projects to play a key part in the Americans hopeful qualification for a first Olympic Games since 2008.
“From our first camp in March 2019 we went to Spain, we played two games there and the road we traveled since then has been only up,” Mihailovic said about the U-23 pool. “I think this past year with the pandemic, it’s only given players a chance to grow as individuals and as a team. Now we are getting more chances to come together before qualifiers and it’s given others chances to come in with us. To see a lot of young players developing and for me to have a leadership role among them its helped us continue to grow forward as a unit.”
“Personally I’ve always dreamed of playing in the Olympics so to make that final roster would be a huge goal of mine right now. From a club standpoint, I want to win trophies there too. I wasn’t able to do that with Chicago so hopefully I can achieve that with Montreal.”