A video montage always opens the MLS SuperDraft, displaying the many paths in which players take to get to the league. There’s visuals of kids playing on desert plains, kids dribbling in back alleys and kids shooting between trash cans on the concrete surfaces of inner cities.
Every player has their journey, but for the Union’s first selection of the day at pick No. 31, forward Dzenan Catic, his journey was quite a bit different from that of his peers. Catic, born is Bosnia, got emotional when he heard his name called by Philly.
“I’m overwhelmed,” said Catic. “I’m so happy to get picked by the Union and I can’t wait to get started. It’s all just tears of joy right now and I’m excited.”
Catic’s parents moved to the United States from Bosnia when he and his sister were just eight years old. He starred in high school at East Kentwood high school in Michigan, where he was a three-time state champion and was named national player of the year in 2010.
“I’m just grateful for my parents,” said Catic. “They had the courage to bring my sister and myself to the United States for a better life.”
Catic decided to test his luck overseas at German club Kaisersulautern rather than entering the college ranks. Difficulties in Germany led him back to the U.S., but since he played pro he was deemed ineligible to play at the NCAA level. The NAIA, however, allowed him three years of eligibility, which led him to DIII Davenport University.
“When I found out I wasn’t NCAA eligible, I looked at Davenport because my friends played there already and it’s close to home,”Catic said. “I had a conversation with coach [Chris] Hughes and he showed a lot of interest in me and wanted me to come play there. It was an easy decision.”
Catic notched 63 goals and 14 assists in just 47 games at Davenport. He led them to the NAIA national championship in 2014 and was named the player of the year.
“He’s battle-tested,” said Union coach Jim Curtin. “He’s been in Europe before. This isn’t his first rodeo. To score the amount of goals, I don’t care what level it is, it’s good. I was talking with a lot of my former teammates that are now MLS coaches, and they’re all very high on him. So for him to fall to 31 is great.”
In terms of the legacy he wants to leave in Philadelphia, Catic is excited for the opportunity. With newly acquired forward C.J. Sapong up top, the Union suddenly have the makings of a dynamic offensive attack next season.
“I’m going to work my butt off,” said Catic. “Hopefully I can play soon and show the city of Philadelphia that I want to win and we can bring a championship to the city.”