A year ago, San Jose Earthquakes Academy goalkeeper Nedin Tucakovic was invited join to the U.S. Soccer Residency Program in Bradenton, Florida – an honor that many elite soccer players in the nation aspire to in hope of landing a spot on the U17 Men’s National Team.
For Tucakovic, that dream quickly disappeared when he wasn’t invited back after the first semester by then coach Wilmer Cabrera.
“I'm guessing I wasn't good enough at the time . . . no idea, coaches never said why,” Tucakovic told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “At that time I went through a lot with family back home and it was a hard few months but, I think I worked hard as I can and don't have any regrets and definitely enjoyed the experience and learned a lot from my coaches in residency.”
The 15-year-old did not sulk with the rejection. He took advantage of new opportunities, one of which was training in London with West Ham.
“I went on my first trial when I was 12 (August 2009); a scout heard about me in Northern California, sent me to his camp, recorded a video of me through the sessions, then sent it back to the director and they were interested,” Tucakovic explained about how he ended up with West Ham. “I stayed for a month with my father in East London where their stadium hotel is. They were pleased with my performance, inviting me back in the winter.”
The interest from West Ham only intensified from that point.
“[In August], they offered me a contract, but I have had issues with the visa. Since then, I’ve been going back and forth till I can get my paperwork done.”
Tucakovic also has Bosnian citizenship, via his father, but since Bosnia is not part of the European Union, it has not helped with securing the move to the London club.
However, it did open up an opportunity to represent another country on the international stage. After not making the roster with the U.S., Tucakovic began suiting up for Bosnia and recently took part in the UEFA European U17 Championship Qualifying Round.
He was the backup keeper in all three games last week where Bosnia went 1-0-2 and missed out on qualifying for the next round by a point.
“It’s been an exciting 10 days and very thankful to be part of the experience,” he said about playing for Bosnia during the qualifying tournament.
Comparing his time with the U.S. youth national team to the training at West Ham, the goalkeeper talked about the speed of play and how swiftly everything moves along with the London club.
“Here in West Ham, it’s a lot quicker with the tempo and less mistakes, which makes everyone more focused throughout training and the game to become better.”
In England, Tucakovic has been training and playing with a number of teams at the English club.
“I play for U16, U18, and reserves,” he said. “I have trained with and been called up twice for [the reserves] games so far in the season.
“The season is going very well for [the U16s]. We are 4-1 and I have started every game. Its really good for us because all five games have been against our toughest opponents: Arsenal, West Bromwich Albion, Everton, Bolton, and Chelsea.”
The only loss came against Everton with a penalty kick goal separating the two teams in a 1-0 result.
Despite rejection and red tape, Tucakovic’s career continues to thrive.
Kentucky teenager takes a trip to Holland
Amar Sejdic, a 15-year-old rising star from Kentucky, was recently part of a quartet of young Americans – including U.S. futsal player Lucas Stauffer – to travel over to Holland in August to get the chance to train with some Dutch clubs.
In all, Sejdic stopped by three clubs: Vitesse, FC Twente and De Graafschap for a series of trials.
“Overall, it was a very competitive, high-level experience,” he told TopDrawerSoccer.com. “It was just something that helped me see where I stand among youth players around the world. It helped me realize what I need to do to become a higher-level player, try and be that top player everybody’s striving for.”
Sejdic, who has appeared in past U15 BNT camps in the past year, plays for United 1996 FC in Kentucky. And while this wasn’t his first time over to Europe, he still learned a lot from the August trip.
“They don’t do as much conditioning; they believe conditioning should be done with the ball,” he said. “Every practice is high-intensity, fast paced.
“There’s always that one person who is getting the team moving forward, keeps the team in a positive move, strives to be better.”
The youngster did enough to impress coaches at Vitesse, and he will be making the trip back to the Netherlands at the end of November for another look.