Rapids’ Djordje Mihailovic on Olympic team selection: “Shocked and excited”

After he and the U.S. men’s youth national team failed to qualify for the Tokyo Olympics four years ago, Djordje Mihailovic didn’t think he’d get another shot.

He grew up watching the Olympics, desperately wanting to be on that field. But Olympic roster rules allow for only three players older than 23 to participate, so the odds of making the team this year had declined significantly for the Rapids midfielder.

Now 25, Mihailovic has defied those odds, joining Nashville’s Walker Zimmerman and Cincinnati’s Miles Robinson as the team’s overage players, U.S. Soccer announced Monday. In 21 games, Mihailovic has contributed 10 goals and nine assists for Colorado, good for seventh-most goal contributions in the MLS this season.

He’s the second active Rapids player in franchise history to represent the U.S. at the Olympics. The first was Joey DiGiamarino in the 2000 games.

“It’s hard to describe how I feel,” Mihailovic told The Denver Post. “When I failed with my age group (to qualify for Tokyo), it was tough to deal with. And in this sport, you rarely get a second chance to accomplish this dream. It has always been a goal of mine to play in the Olympics, and it’s a special moment for my friends and family and also to represent the Rapids and my teammates.

“When (Olympic coach Marko Mitrović) called me and told me, I was shocked and I was excited. And also, at the same time, I’m disappointed that it’s just me going and not Cole (Bassett). I felt like he definitely deserved to go.”

Clubs can — and some did — decline to allow players to go to Paris in the interest of domestic competition and their team’s needs at the time. With three matches against top MLS teams followed by Leagues Cup during the Olympics, the Colorado Rapids easily could have required the 25-year-old to stay stateside.

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When Mitrović came calling for the Rapids star, the choice was easy for coach Chris Armas and the club.

“The players’ dreams are our dreams, as a club and as a coaching staff,” Armas told the Post. “In the big picture, it’s the best thing for Djordje. … I’m really proud to be on this journey with him and to help him. This is tremendous; we should be very excited for him and that’s how we’re looking at it.”

With that, there is a delicate line to toe when clubs have the power to decline to send players to the Olympics. On one hand, a player goes and the team performance can dip in their absence. On the other, the emotional ramifications of being denied by your own team to participate can far outweigh the short-term benefits of staying with the team for the extra month.

The way the Rapids see it, sure, they’ll miss their offensive catalyst for a tough stretch of games. But with a goal and an assist, Bassett proved in a

Source:: The Denver Post – Sports


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