Mitrovic brings international talents to Bennett’s squad

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Mitrovic (6) looking to keep possession of the ball in Marquette men’s soccer’s 6-1 win over Utah Tech Aug. 28. (Photo courtesy of Marquette Athletics.)

The Marquette men’s soccer team has an international flair with players from many different countries. First-year midfielder Mitar Mitrovic is no exception being from Belgrade, Serbia. 

Mitrovic lives with two other international first-year players, Ludvig Malberg and Tristan Ronnestad-Stevens, as well as first-year Kyle Bebej.

“The culture difference between them and me is not huge. It feels like we pretty much grew up together in a way,” Mitroch said. 

Mitrovic said soccer helped him overcome cultural barriers in the U.S. for the international players. 

“This is my sixth year here now. So when I first got here, it was a bit of a challenge. You know, adapting to everything but now I’m really getting it because we’re all footballers, we all are the same,” Mitrovic said. 

Mitrovic said he found his way to Marquette and Milwaukee after a 30-minute Zoom call with head coach Louis Bennett and assistant coach Sean Hughes during his senior year of high school. 

“I contacted Coach B and Sean and think we had one meeting. It was great,” Mitrovic said. “I liked the way they saw football (soccer) and thought it fit my style and after that we pretty much agreed on everything in 30 minutes.”

For Mitrovic, the coaching staff and the soccer program at Marquette exceeded his expectations after his interview.

“When I came here, it was even better than I expected, the facilities, the coaches, the player’s style really fit for me and I feel comfortable here. I feel really good,” Mitrovic said.

Prior to playing for the Golden Eagles, Mitrovic played for both the Chicago Fire Academy and Indiana Fire Academy. Both academies are affiliated with Chicago Fire FC in Major League Soccer.

“I moved to Chicago in 2016 and that’s where I started off,” Mitrovic said. “I played there for three years and they sent me down to Indiana to play. That’s where I think I really have started developing.” 

Senior forward Lukas Sunesson has seen Mitrovic’s development grow in each game he plays.

“I think the future is bright for Mitar,” Sunesson said. “I think he’s becoming more and more mature in how he plays. He’s very secure on the ball, he wants the ball all the time and tries to make himself available. He’s a very talented player, so if he just keeps getting mature I think he’s gonna be one of the best players.” 

When it came to picking his jersey number, Mitrovic said number six just felt right for him.

“The six months that I spent in Serbia last fall, I was number six,” Mitrovic said. “Then (when) Sean texted me and he asked me what number I wanted to be, I saw six and I felt good with the number so I picked it and six is kind of a midfield number.”  

Mitrovic arrived early to the Golden Eagles, as he was on campus last spring. He said this allowed him to get acclimated with the team and campus.  

“Before coming here in the spring, I played third division over there (Serbia) semi-pro and played with grown men,” Mitrovic said. “That helped me prepare to come here and then I had one semester of  getting to know the team, the coaches. So now (when) the season started I already felt at home.”

Through eight games this season, Mitrovic has totaled 462 minutes while scoring one goal and recording two assists.

Sunnesson said that Mitrovic is a strong player in the middle of the pitch.

“He’s already a very important player for us and I don’t think that’s gonna change. He plays a very vital role in our midfield. He tends to get a little aggressive sometimes on the field but he’s working on not getting any yellow cards and I think he’s doing great.”

Before the game players have to mentally prepare to play.

“I think everybody gets nervous, you know, but now it’s more exciting, it’s more just being excited to go out there and compete, especially at home,” Mitrovic said.

Mitrovic said he looks up to all four of the Golden Eagles captains: Alan Salmeron, Zyan Andrade, Lukas Sunesson and Alex Mirsberger.

“I look up to them because of the way they lead,” Mitrovic said. “One is a 6, one is a 8 and I play both positions so I’m taking the good things they have on and off the field as leaders and as players. Learning from all of them helps you a lot.”

The pressure of Division I soccer can be intense on a player, but for Mitrovic he said likes to joke around to help lighten the mood.

“I like joking around with the team. You know, I feel like it’s good to have a good atmosphere in the locker room and, you know, just messing around, joking, I think it’s fun. And when people are laughing, then I’m happy.”

While Mitrovic is still a young lad on Bennett’s team, he said he has hopes of extending his soccer career post his time at Marquette. 

“That’s that dream, you know, playing professionally, I don’t see myself doing anything else but this,” Mitrovic said. “That’s what I’m working towards right now, but at this moment the focus is of course helping the team win and making it to the tournament this year and every year.”

This story was written by Catherine Fink. She can be reached at [email protected] or on Twitter @CatherineFinkMU.