Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mikulic steps into prominent role

Fire's Josip Mikulic -- Getty Images
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- When the Chicago Fire sought out new pieces in building their 2011 squad, they brought in a group that had a combination of athleticism, youth and experience.

That might not be the easiest combination to find, but a fitting example is the addition of center defensive back Josip Mikulic. The 24-year-old Mikulic, a native of Ljubuski, Bosnia and Herzegovina, spent his previous five years with Croatian side NK Zagreb, and his game has stood out in the early going.

While Uruguayan forwards Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari will grab the spotlight if they produce a regular scoring punch, it will be Mikulic's role in the back that turns out to be just as important.

Chicago has started its season with a 1-0-1 mark, and the Fire defense held most teams at bay during the preseason. The solid start has been anchored by a brand-new back line of Mikulic at center back, rookie Jalil Anibaba at right back and Cory Gibbs on the left when the Fire go with their 3-5-2 system.

"I played five years in Europe, and in my country, when you switch one guy, it's a problem," Mikulic said. "[The Fire] switched the whole defense, and it's been very good."

Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos accompanied technical director Frank Klopas in scouting Mikulic this offseason, and De los Cobos has been impressed with what Mikulic has brought to the table.

"He has a strong personality and he's very strong on the field," De los Cobos said. "He's playing very well together with Cory and Jalil. The most important thing is he's very honest on the field. I think we are lucky to have this guy with us."


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