When the Chicago Fire sought out new pieces in building their 2011 squad, they brought in a group that had a combination of athleticism, youth and experience.
That might not be the easiest combination to find, but a fitting example is the addition of center defensive back Josip Mikulic. The 24-year-old Mikulic, a native of Ljubuski, Bosnia and Herzegovina, spent his previous five years with Croatian side NK Zagreb, and his game has stood out in the early going.
While Uruguayan forwards Diego Chaves and Gaston Puerari will grab the spotlight if they produce a regular scoring punch, it will be Mikulic's role in the back that turns out to be just as important.
Chicago has started its season with a 1-0-1 mark, and the Fire defense held most teams at bay during the preseason. The solid start has been anchored by a brand-new back line of Mikulic at center back, rookie Jalil Anibaba at right back and Cory Gibbs on the left when the Fire go with their 3-5-2 system.