The World Cup had a little bit of Chicago Fire flair on Sunday when former Fire PDL player Vedad Ibisevic scored Bosnia-Herzegovina’s first-ever goal in the competition towards the end of their 2-1 loss to Argentina.
Ibisevic’s American roots can be traced through St. Louis, where his family joined a growing Bosnian population with the conflicts in the former Yugoslavia during the 1990s. It was there that he attended Saint Louis University and even played for the St. Louis Strikers PDL team in 2003 and early 2004.
But he did have a short run with the Chicago Fire PDL team, where he likely sealed his first move to French giants Paris Saint-Germain according to PDL head coach Mike Matkovich.
Ibisevic played just three matches for the Fire PDL that season, tallying a goal and assist vs. the Wisconsin Rebels in a 5-1 rout on June 26. He then went 72 minutes in a 3-0 victory over the Kalamazoo Kingdom July 3.
He returned to St. Louis for a few days before coming back to the team, scoring two goals in a 4-1 win over Wisconsin on July 8. The game would end up being his last in a Fire shirt.
“I picked him up at the airport that Thursday,” Matkovich told Chicago-Fire.com. “We played that night against Wisconsin, won and I told the guys to keep an eye on him over the weekend before our next game.”
“We had a game on Saturday against Kalamazoo and I never saw the guy again,” Matkovich joked.
Matkovich later found out that PSG scouts had been keeping tabs on the young Bosnian and finished their work with his three-game run with the PDL side.
“They’d been there the week before and that Friday night, they flew him over to Europe and he signed. His college coach Danny Donigan was calling me the following week saying, ‘Where’s Vedad?’
“I had to break the news to him.”
Back as the Fire PDL coach this season, Matkovich presided over the side during some of its best years. Even without Ibisevic, the 2004 team was stacked, featuring future MLS players Brad Guzan, Chris Rolfe and Drew Moor, going 17-0-1 en route to the league’s Regular Season title.
“We had a good team and Vedad had good guys around him but he was a special player. You could see that. That’s why I went and got him, I knew he was good and I knew he could help. Back then the model was different – we’re working with our Academy alumni now but back then we were researching guys to potentially take in the SuperDraft.
“The little bit we had of him, he fit right in with us. He was the best attacking player and the best goal scorer our PDL team has ever seen.”
Ibisevic has since bounced around Europe but caught the attention of many during his years with Bundesliga side Hoffenheim where he scored 48 goals in 123 appearances between 2007-2012 before moving to VfB Stuttgart.
In two seasons with Die Roten he’s bagged 33 goals in 71 appearances and kept his scoring rate up with Bosnia, where he’s tallied 21 goals in 56 caps.