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Novakovich Continues Quick Rise with U.S. U-18 MNT

Chicago Magic PSG Forward Garners Attention from Academy Season to Compete in Milk Cup

Late last year, forward Andrija Novakovich was known for his high-level play in high school, but he had not been part of U.S. Soccer’s Development Academy or the Youth National Team circuit.

Then in December, Novakovich joined Chicago Magic PSG and his strong performance in the Academy system garnered the attention of technical advisors and YNT coaches alike. His quick rise has taken him overseas as he is playing for the U.S. Under-18 Men’s National Team under head coach Javier Perez at the 2013 Northern Ireland Milk Cup.

“It ended up where I just took the step and went full-time Academy with the Chicago Magic,” Novakovich said. “It’s been a good experience. We were on the rise to get into the Playoffs, and clinching a Playoff spot in that final regular-season game was a proud moment.”

The Magic U-15/16s advanced to the postseason and Novakovich was the team’s leading scorer with 22 goals during the campaign.

Novakovich lives in Muskego, Wis., so taking part in the Academy system required some significant sacrifice and time heading into the Chicago area on a daily basis.

“It’s been a little difficult, but I have a great support system at home,” Novakovich said. “Most days I would get home around 3, squeeze in as much homework as I can, grab something to eat and then head down to practice after an hour-long drive. That’s the sacrifice I chose, but it’s been great.”

The 6-foot-3 Novakovich brings a versatile presence to the field, whether he is controlling the ball at his feet or using his height advantage on set pieces.

“I’m a bigger guy, so there are probably advantages to playing aerially, as well as on the ground,” Novakovich said. “I think it’s important to play both ways, and to have both capabilities does help me with many different players or styles.

“I try to do my job as a center forward, to hold the ball and score goals. Those are my main objectives,” Novakovich said. “My job is to do that and be as versatile as possible. Whatever the coach needs, I’ll do my best and give it my all.”

Novakovich has a close-knit Serbian community in Muskego, a southwest suburb of Milwaukee, and many of his family and friends stay connected with his game.

“There are a lot of Serbians where I live, and we all speak the language and practice the culture,” Novakovich said. “It’s really nice to have a group that really understands you. There, I started off my soccer career at United Serbians, which is a local club in Wisconsin. Then I went to Red Star, which changed its name a couple times. My dad got me involved in soccer, my mom has driven me everywhere, and my uncle also was a big influence when I was younger. He played for the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee. It’s just great to have them in my life.”

Novakovich has embraced the opportunity to play internationally for the U.S. U-18s in the Northern Ireland Milk Cup, knowing full well that the environment will help him grow as a player.

“I think the physicality of being here and the different style of play will help me in the long run,” Novakovich said. “For each level you go up, the game gets better and better and you have to play up-tempo. It’s fast-paced.”

Novakovich is committed to play collegiately at Marquette in the fall of 2014, and like any serious player he also hopes his game will translate into the professional ranks.

“Obviously it’s been a dream to go pro ever since I was little,” Novakovich said. “I’d love to be a professional soccer player. It would be amazing. Wherever life takes me, that’s one of my dreams – to play at the pro level at the highest level possible. If it happens, it would be great and I’d be thankful for that.”