Republic FC midfielder Ivan Mirkovic is renowned for his defensive prowess, not his ability to score goals.
But the feisty second year player from Serbia showed impeccable timing and panache in scoring the first goal of his professional career on Aug. 14.
It soared at least 40 yards, came in stoppage time and enabled Republic FC to rally for an improbable 3-3 tie with the then USL Western Conference-leading Switchbacks FC in the thin air at Sand Creek Stadium.
And Mirkovic wasn’t even trying to score.
“The coach was yelling to put the ball in, so I looked up and saw a couple of my guys and just sent it in,” Mirkovic said.
With Colorado Springs goalkeeper Devala Gorrick on his line, Gabe Gissie, Mirkovic’s roommate, jumped to try to head the ball. But it was just beyond his reach.
The curving shot bounced in front of the stunned Gorrick and squirted past him into the goal.
“I wasn’t trying to score, but it took the perfect bounce,” Mirkovic said.
Mirkovic’s maiden goal came in his 54th match for Republic FC. Amazingly, he has taken on eight shots during his tenure.
“I never think about scoring goals and getting assists,” Mirkovic said. “I’m just glad to help the team. I just wished the goal was for three points instead of just one. But at the end of the day, we got a point.”
Mirkovic’s goal came shortly after Mickey Daly’s 82nd minute goal that cut Colorado Springs’ lead to 3-2. It was a boost for a team that had lost two of its last three USL matches and is trying to stay in the USL Western Conference playoff race.
“For us to come back against that type of team was brilliant for the players,” said Republic FC coach Paul Buckle.
Change of pace – One of Preki’s biggest points of emphasis was Republic FC was to attack, attack, attack and press the action constantly.
So when a Republic FC player lost a ball, the biggest priority was to win it back as quickly as possible.
Buckle has a different view.
“I’m not massive on the press,” he told a group of coaches at a symposium on Monday sponsored by Republic FC and the Results Physical Therapy and Training Center. “With pressing, you’ve got to get it right.”
He said scoring in what he calls the modern game comes from counterattacks and set plays.
“You can only attack with so many players,” he said.
Among his top priorities has been to reduce the number of goals allowed.
“Stop looking at the attack, look what’s happening behind it,” he said. “It’s about shape.”
More downsizing – Republic FC has released midfielders Zev Taublieb and Gabe Gonzalez.
Taublieb, a rookie, played in 13 matches, including nine in the USL. He had two goals and an assist.
Gonzalez, who played the previous two seasons with the Orange County Blues FC, appeared in 10 matches, including six in the USL. He scored a goal against Sonoma County Sol FC in the first round of the U.S. Open Cup.
Gonzalez and Taublieb join forward David Estrada in departing the team since the arrival of Buckle. Estrada, a five-year Major League Soccer veteran, signed this week with the Blues.
In Buckle’s five matches, Gonzalez did not appear and Taublieb played briefly late against Sunderland AFC.