The first MLS Homegrown game in 2014 was a bit of a clunker. It ended 0-0, and the MVP was a goalkeeper named Jon Kempin, who washed out at Sporting KC and is now with the LA Galaxy’s USL team. In fact, the best player on the field that day was on the other sideline, guest playing for the Portland Timbers U23 team. His name was Cristian Roldan.
In that context, the game itself has come a long way. We knew before hand the game featured its most fun MLS roster ever, and Tuesday’s match against Chivas’ title-winning U20 side did not disappoint.
The game ended in a 2-2 draw, and it did what it was largely intended to do; entertained non-partisans while providing a few individual boosts for players we have yet to see much of on the pro level. Andrew Carleton, who’s had all of four minutes with Atlanta United so far, was particularly enjoyable on the left flank. But that in particular was no surprise.
One of those standouts was local kid Djordje Mihailovic, the Chicago Fire’s most recent Homegrown addition (and most assuredly its best). And boy oh boy did Mihailovic get the game off to an enjoyable start.
Mihailovic, weirdly enough, started as the center forward in a three-back lineup that didn’t really have fullbacks. But of course the tactics never mattered in a match like this as much as the brief individual blinks of talent. Mihailovic is more of a metronomic midfielder, and you saw his comfort and ease in tight spots in and around the box on his goal. He has the capability of doing this on the pro level, too.
Brief reminder that on a different (darker?) timeline, Mihailovic is training on his own right now in preparation for his freshman season at North Carolina.
The broader question now is what Chicago does with him. The Fire have more or less ignored Homegrowns over the life of their academy program, and the one they did give the time of day to, Harry Shipp, was unceremoniously traded away for reasons that remain opaque to me.
Mihailovic’s already gotten seven games with the first team in his first season, a good sign on a top-heavy Fire team that has a legitimate crack at a Supporter’s Shield. But he’s yet to break in for a start, the next step up the ladder for the enterprising 18-year-old. Goals like these in showcase games against Mexican U20 champions certainly won’t hurt the cause.