By C.M. Brandon @lukacharms
It’s international break! The best time of the year!
I wish I could tell you about how the New York City FC players fared on their respective national teams, but to be entirely honest? I wasn’t paying attention (well, beyond Costa Rica’s walloping at the hands of Mexico). Chalk most of that up to being sick as a dog, but chalk a good part up to the fact that my international breaks revolve around one major thing: Obsessively tracking the Croatia national team.
My heart beats strongest and hardest for Vatreni. I love them in the way one can only love the homeland of their blood. In May, I’ll travel with my girlfriend to watch them play a friendly against Mexico here in the States, and I only think about that match… oh, I don’t know, five thousand times a day. They’re number one in my head and heart. They mean the world to me.
Croatian players are so often my bargaining chip when talking to other football fans. I can find common ground with Inter Milan fans by singing the praises of their current Croatian wonder duo, Ivan Perišić and Marcelo Brozović. I can break up a heated argument with any culé by asking how they feel about Ivan Rakitić. No matter where club loyalties lie, the most important thing to me is that everyone adores the men who represent my country.
That’s not asking much, right?
Unfortunately, Croatians are all but unknown in MLS. Let me break it down real quick:
Four Croatians have played in MLS. Four! That’s enough to count on one hand, and you’re still left with enough room to give a big thumbs down. Scorin’ Goran Hunjak played for the defunct Tampa Bay Mutiny and pre-Sporting KC Kansas City Wizards in the mid-90s. Josip Mikulić spent one uneventful season with Chicago Fire in 2011; Marko Marić was also there, but only made one appearance before being sidelined with injury. Leonard Bisaku saw out his career at Columbus Crew, though I’d challenge you to find a single soul who remembers him.
And… that’s it. It’s also worth noting none of the players above made appearances for the senior national team.
The biggest Croatian name to make it to America is Niko Kranjčar. A former midfielder for Vatreni, Niko found himself wandering in a bit of a clubless haze after Dynamo Kyiv released him in 2016. He somehow found himself training with the New York Cosmos to keep up his fitness, and signed for them in March when one of their foreign player spots opened up. He made seven appearances, scored one goal, and left for the Scottish Premiership three months later to join the Rangers.
That brings me to my point. MLS gods that be, if you’re listening, I have a modest proposal:
BRING THESE PLAYERS TO MLS (PREFERABLY NYCFC BUT I’M NOT PICKY) NOW, THANK ME LATER!
- Ivica Olić — 37 years old, forward, currently with 1860 Munich. I know, I see you balking at his age, but hear me out. Ivica has the honor of being in the top five all-time goal scorers for Vatreni, and even though he’s on the wrong side of thirty, he’s still finding the net in Germany. At one point he was rumored to be linked to the Sounders, so… You know what to do. Make it happen.
- Eduardo da Silva — 34 years old, forward, currently with Atlético Paranaense. Speaking of all-time goal scorers! Dudu is our #2 man and was instrumental in many of Vatreni’s successes over the years. You need goals? Great. Sign him. Please. I miss watching him play.
- Vedran Ćorluka — 31 years old, defender, currently with Lokomotiv Moscow. AKA Charlie, AKA that guy whose head kept bleeding during Euro 2016 so they made him wear a cute little water polo cap. Charlie is your prototypical bulky defender and he does well anywhere on the back line. If certain clubs who need some extra beef in their defense are looking for options, well… You’re welcome.
- Nikola Kalinić — 29 years old, striker, currently with Fiorentina. Arguably the best striker you’ve never heard of. Nikola is on fire with both club and country. He’s a joy to watch play, and he lives up to his price tag based on goal tally alone. Maybe you remember him from embarrassing Spain during the Euros last summer? He’s cheeky. Get him over here right now.
- Alen Halilović — 20 years old, attacking midfielder, currently with Las Palmas. Look, they’re not all old! Alen is young and talented and, well, major European leagues aren’t working out super well for him so far, so why not? Think of it as a swap deal. If Christian Pulisic can play for the USMNT, Alen can play in MLS. (Related, don’t talk to me about Pulisic until he learns how to pronounce his own surname.)
- Anybody but Mario Mandžukić. I mean it. Anybody else. I feel very strongly that Mandzo was meant to retire at Juventus, and MLS gods, if you take that from me, you will rue the day.
I mean, I could go on. The list is approximately endless. This is my niche, this is the hill I die on.
Your move, MLS.
Featured image courtesy: Croatia National Team
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