BRIAN SCIARETTA - Tuesday, November 22, 2011
With Bosnian Premier League set to head into the winter break next week, American forward Danijal Brkovic is breaking out for Velez Mostar and is playing the best soccer of his young career.

Brkovic, 20, broke into the starting lineup for Velez Mostar in October after he scored his first professional goal for Velez in a Bosnian Cup match in the game's opening minute. Since then he has become a steady presence for Velez.

"The coach finally gave me a chance," Brkovic told YA from Bosnia. "The first game I played was against Zrinjski and that's where I scored in the first minute. That is where he saw I had the ability to play striker. But I've been doing better in training too. I usually train hard every practice and it's finally paying off. The coach told me I've been doing a good job. He gave me a chance and I've been playing ever since."

Brkovic's momentum carried over into the November international window when he played for Velez in a friendly against fellow Bosnian Premier League club FK Leotar. In the game, Brkovic scored a hat-trick in a 5-2 win.

This past weekend Brkovic saw his solid play reach a new level in a game against Sloboda Tuzla. With Velez ahead 1-0 in the second half, Brkovic found the back of the net for his first ever Premier League goal.

"I went one-on-one with the keeper," Brkovic said of the goal. "The ball was bouncing and I saw the keeper coming out so I just chipped it over him. It's a great feeling scoring your first goal in the Premier League. It was a good goal. I always dreamed of it."

Brkovic turned professional last year after a standout youth career at BC United Fusion and at Johnson City High School in the Binghamton, New York area.

Brkovic had options to stay in the States but he instead elected to tryout with Velez in the city of Mostar where his family is from. His successful trial earned him a professional contract in tail end of 2010.

The past year has been a transformative year for him and he is confident that the professional environment has made him a far superior player now than when he left the United States after high school.

"I think I've improved a lot," Brkovic confidently stated. "In America I played every day but when I got here, I could tell the difference. It's professional. I can feel myself improving and I learn something new every practice. The practices are different in America. Here we are learning how to move on the field."

Velez currently sit in eight place in the Premier Liga and team expectations among both the players and fans are much higher this season than last year where they finished in 13th place in the 16 team league.

Velez's optimistic season, however, was marred by on ugly incident on October 1st when Velez visited arch rival Zrinjski. In the game, Velez scored a go-ahead goal in the 90th minute which enraged Zrinjski fans to the point where it caused dangerous and massive riot.

Following the goal, Zrinjski fans stormed the field to attack the Velez players who then had to sprint off the field to avoid harm. Brkovic did not play in that game but he was on the field.

In the end, all the players were able to escape unharmed but the incident is one Brkovic will never forget.

"That was really scary," Brkovic recalled of the horrific scene. "I've never had anything happen to me before like that and I've never seen anything like that before. They are really big rivals. Seeing [Zrinjski fans] run onto the field was scary. I didn't know where to go. But they opened the gates and all the players ran through and into the locker room.

"We stayed there for an hour and a half until everything cleared up," Brkovic continued. "Then later, we got onto the bus. While we were heading back home they were waiting for us on the streets and throwing rocks at us. I don't think it's going to happen much anymore. The police are stricter now."

Brkovic and Velez will visit Branitelj Mostar on Wednesday in the second leg of their Bosnian Cup match in which Velez carry a 2-0 lead. On Sunday they will travel to take on GOSK Gabela in their final match before the winter break.

Brkovic is scheduled to head back to Binghamton next week and he will train there every day before returning to Velez in mid January. The second half of the season won't resume until mid March.

Brkovic's success has also opened the door to questions as to where his international future lies. He was born in war-torn Dubrovnik in the former Yugoslavia but he moved to the United States when he was only nine years old in 2000.

Brkovic became an American citizen three years ago but still holds citizenship with Bosnia. He is still yet to represent any country internationally at any level.

While he is not frequently asked about his international future by the American media, it has come up in Bosnia where his success has put him into contention for a possible callup to the Bosnian U21 team.

Brkovic is unsure of which country he would prefer to represent but he does admit that the door to playing for the United States is certainly not closed and that a callup to the US U23 team would "mean a lot."

For now, he is simply focused on continuing his recent improvement at Velez and earning a contract extension with the club. Eventually, however, he wants to move to the elite leagues in Europe.

"I always dreamed about playing in a bigger club," Brkovic concluded. "I'm focused on playing for Velez right now. After my contract runs out I hope to extend it. I think it's a great experience playing over here. You learn a lot. I'm still young and I want to get my experience up first. After that, I hope to go up to a bigger club."
Sunday December 4, 2011 9:36 pm
Mostarac, you are being harsh. Yes, the country still struggles with poverty and structure, but bosnia produces more talented players then america has or ever will, you cannot argue that.

And if you cannot argue that, then you must admit that the bosnian league get looks from other leagues. yes, the facilities are not great, but playing in front of the fans in a league that gets looks from other higher paying league might be worth it. They pay more than cecapcici! A place to live, place to eat for free, and a little money every now and then... is not bad. Like playing in the lower leagues in the US is any better, they make $1000 dollars a month, have fun living off of that, plus where are you going to go from there?? to the MLS, where they pay 35,000 a year. I might as well be a math teacher!

At least in bosnia you have a chance of moving to a bigger league and getting paid real money. If you score a bunch of goals in that league, you can get picked up, no doubt. He is only 20 years old so he has time. I guarantee that a PDL team (lowest league) in the USA would loose 5-0 to Velez. If you are bosnian... have some pride in your country's league.
Thursday December 1, 2011 10:42 am
Admir, you re clueless. It has nothing to do who I like or not. The fact is that league is absolute joke. Players leave to go to Chechnya (under war conditions just to get paid). If Danial gets paid a dime for playing for Velez and he shows me his paycheck I will walk naked from Wall Street where I work to New Jersey where I live. That team is joke.

Christian, quality of BiH league (Mostar is in Hercegovina) has nothing to do with success of national team. Team really did well (my cousin was actually coach four years ago) but only 'despite' horror show of Premier league how they call it back in BiH.

I had a chance to play on both sides of the Ocean (professionally Admir and I am A licensed soccer coach) and I can guarantee you that level of soccer in Premier league is way worse than lowest soccer levels here in US. Just for example, fields (just like Velez's) is worse than average US community college while most importantly soccer talent if it shows early (like Dzeko at age of 17) is gone to develop somewehere in Europe.

Where did best players Pranjic, Dzeko, Spahic, etc develop. They didnt play a sec in Premier League.

Those are facts. Who I like and who I cheer for for is completely subjective and means nothing to this topic.
Christian Gallus
Tuesday November 29, 2011 12:46 pm
Absolutely, Dani(Danijal), should be called to the Olympic (U-23camp) in January so that we can take a look at him(I'm sure Velez will release him for 2 months because the Spring season in Bosnia starts only in the middle of March. This is a great opportunity for the US coaches to take a look at Dani and see for themselves what he can do. Christian
Thursday November 24, 2011 10:55 am
Do not pay attention to the 1st comment made by Mostarac. He is most likely a Zrinjski fan. If you read the article, you'll notice Zrinjski fans have beef with Velez and they're mostly Croats who don't like Bosnia. So anything this guy said should simply be ignored.
Bob Rizzuto
Wednesday November 23, 2011 10:30 pm
The US needs all the young talented attacking players it can get, and he sounds like a very talented kid. Can't wait to see where he goes from here.
Christian Gallus
Wednesday November 23, 2011 1:37 pm
Dude. Bosnia came within a goal of knocking out France( when we played France we had nothing) from automatically qualifiying to the European Cup 3 weeks ago. The level of talent anywhere in the Balkans is incredible;Greece, Croatia,Serbia,Bosnia,Bulgaria,Roumania,Montenegro,Hungary,Macedonia; If a kid has talent in soccer in any of these small countries they will spot him right away; in the US we are way to slow(and sometimes too late) to recognize talent. All of Europe will see this kid (DANI BRKOVIC) before we will.
Wednesday November 23, 2011 11:27 am
Maybe he will be called into the u-23 olympic camp in Jan. considering he won't be hamstrung by club commitments due to the winter break.
Wednesday November 23, 2011 9:49 am
I honestly dont understand if this dude have/had any talent why would he go to Bosnia and play.....especially for that team which can only pay you in cevapcici, even that once a week. Team is joke, league is a joke......and if he has any talent whatsoever, he should have stayed here and try in MLS or even lower leagues.
Even talented soccer players from Bosnia and Herzegovina try everything they can to transfer somewhere else, even going to war torn exSoviet republics like Chechnia, Georgia, etc. and play soccer.
I understand he maybe some talent but playing for that club in that league is not a step is a leap back.

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