Fire

Lemont product Djordje Mihailovic living out his dream playing for the Fire

Lemont product Djordje Mihailovic living out his dream playing for the Fire

Djordje Mihailovic is living out his childhood dream.

After growing up as the son of a professional soccer player, the 18-year-old signed with the Chicago Fire as a homegrown player just over a month ago.

Mihailovic's dad, Aleks, played in the North American Soccer League in the late 70s and early 80s. Now Djordje, who says he started playing when he was two years old, is beginning his own professional career.

"I can't think of a better job than to play soccer," he said. "I've been a fan of Chicago Fire my whole life. I always went to the games as a kid, to be playing in the stadium now is just unreal."

Mihailovic, who grew up in Lemont, was in his fourth season with the Fire's academy when he signed his homegrown contract on Jan. 27. The preseason had already started before he signed, but he was already training with the first team. He has been training with the first team sporadically since the summer of 2015.

The midfielder said that time helped him adjust to the pro game, but the transition was a bit jarring at first.

"The first thing I had to learn was how to play quicker out of pressure," Mihailovic said. "Quickly I learned that. All the guys going 100 percent everyday and respond. That's what you have to learn quick if you want to make it here."

In addition to training with professionals, Mihailovic has had experience at youth national team levels. He has represented the U.S. at the U-17 and U-19 levels, including spending some time with the under-17 residency program in Bradenton, Fla. He played with the under-19s in February during the Fire's preseason and scored a goal against NASL side Miami FC in a friendly.

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Mihailovic was committed to play collegiately at North Carolina, where Fire homegrown prospects Cameron Lindley and Mauricio Pineda recently completed their freshmen seasons, but instead decided to make the jump to the professional ranks this season.

"I felt ready," Mihailovic said. "I've been here for a year. I get along with the guys good. I can compete with these guys. I feel like I can earn my spot."

He describes his position as a mix between a box-to-box midfielder and a more playmaking, attacking midfielder. He mentioned Juninho as the player on the Fire he tries to watch and model his game after most, even if Mihailovic is more of an attacking player than Juninho, who is more of a defensive mid.

Playing time may not come often this season, but that's not what Mihailovic said his focus is this season.

"I'm expecting this year just to learn as much as I can from older guys like Dax (McCarty) and Juni, the guys that played my position for a long time," he said. "They do a great job at it. I'm just trying to learn. If I get in, great, but as long I'm learning that's what I need right now at my age."

Whatever happens, for now it's a dream come true for Mihailovic, who was born a few weeks after the Fire won MLS Cup '98.

"It's been a dream," he said. "I came to Chicago Fire four years ago in the academy and hoped for this opportunity and it finally came true."

Chicago Fire's 'MLS is Back' opening match postponed due to COVID-19

Chicago Fire's 'MLS is Back' opening match postponed due to COVID-19

MLS announced on Tuesday that the Chicago Fire’s first game back after the season was suspended due to COVID-19 has been postponed.

The Fire were supposed to play Nashville SC on Wednesday in their opening Group A match of the MLS is Back tournament. But since arriving in Orlando for the tournament, five Nashville players tested positive for COVID-19 and four others received inclusive results, requiring more testing. As a result, MLS is now evaluating Nashville’s participation in the tournament.

The Fire will now return to play on July 14 against Inter Miami CF.

The Fire also announced that the Drive-In Matchday event that was scheduled for Wednesday’s game has been rescheduled for their July 19 game against New York City FC. Fans who registered for that event will have the opportunity to sign-up again for the new date.

This is the second Chicago pro sports match altered as leagues try to return to play. The Chicago Red Stars also had a game cancelled in late June due to Orlando Pride players testing positive for COVID-19.

As MLB, the NHL and the NBA gear up to return it remains to be seen how they will react in a similar situation.

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MLS announces return to play plan for tournament at Disney World

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USA Today

MLS announces return to play plan for tournament at Disney World

MLS soccer is coming back this summer.

The league announced a plan to have all 26 MLS clubs resume play on July 8 with a league-wide “MLS is Back Tournament.”

The games will be played at the ESPN Wide World of Sports Complex at Disney World, without fans in the stands.

Here’s how it will work:

Clubs can arrive in Orlando to begin training on June 24. Then a group stage will begin July 8 followed by a knockout stage, starting July 25.

There will be six groups, three for each the Western and Eastern Conferences. The group stage draw will occur on June 11 at 2:30 p.m. CT.

Each team will play three group stage matches, and the results from those games will count in the 2020 MLS regular season standings.

Then the top two teams from each group, plus the four best third-place finishers will advance to the knockout stage. That stage starts with a round-of-16, followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and then the championship game. The championship game will be played on August 11.

In case of a tie at the end of regulation in the knockout stage, games will proceed directly to a penalty kick shootout.

The winner of the tournament will earn a berth in the 2021 Concacaf Champions League.

At the conclusion of the tournament, MLS will resume its regular season followed by the MLS Cup Playoffs and MLS Cup.

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