Summer With The City: Stefan Mijatovic
Go behind the scenes with Utica City FC as a part of our Summer With The City Interview series!
This article covers Stefan Mijatovic, recently re-signed star defenseman. Mijatovic tallied 6G and 7A through 15GP with UCFC in 2022-23, electrifying the City faithful with his hard-nosed style of play, boisterous personality, and scoring touch.
What was the biggest driving factor in wanting to re-sign with UCFC?
Most definitely the fans. I mean, the love and energy they show us, the support, regardless of the result. Another thing is the locker room vibes. Timmy Goldman, my teammates... I've never been on a team with such a good vibe, win or lose. When I came in, we were one of the bottom teams in the league and the locker room vibes were still incredible. Timmy has The Hootery. If you haven't followed The Hootery and go on Instagram, follow them. His content is amazing. The things he does for the team is great.
By far, the fans and my teammates too, for putting trust in me. Coach Hewerton, Tommy, and my teammates since day one, they put their trust in me. Being a new kid on a team coming in mid season is super hard. I respect them a lot and I have a lot of love for all of them. And I have a lot of love for the fans— if there was a seventh man of the year, it would definitely be our fans.
After St. Louis, you came into UCFC with the chance for a fresh start. How did you take advantage of that opportunity?
Coming from St. Louis to Utica was a big change. It was definitely something that I wasn't expecting, I was struggling with a lot of things on and off the field, one of them being my foot injury. I broke my foot twice and didn't play for two years. The doctors told me that I wouldn't play soccer maybe ever again. So, I gained a lot of weight. I was unfit. I was just trying to get back into shape. And then coming into Utica, I was like, "let me just get fit, try to help them as much as I can. Try to get them into the playoffs. Do anything possible that I could to just help the team in any way."
Credit to Bo, Toby, and Nate. The two captains, Bo and Nate for helping me out. Bo's Serbian, so we clicked right away. Nate's one of the most professional guys I've ever met. Big respect to Toby. I thought that I couldn't learn a lot of things anymore. I thought I've learned a lot. I'm a veteran in the league. I was like, "I can't learn anything else." Toby taught me so many things and me and Toby were changing in twos all season long. I've got a lot of respect, gratitude, and thanks to Toby for teaching me a lot of things that he did this season. To my whole team, really believing in me and then just being there for me throughout the whole season and what we did midway through the season, flipping the script and going from last place to almost making it to the finals. It was an incredible story— we love an underdog story, so we hope that you bet against us again this year because we're gonna prove a lot of haters wrong.
Who’s your best friend on the team?
That's an easy one. Kid Dynamite, GG3, Gordy Gurson. Kid's an animal. He broke the single season record last year. He's, he's been my boy for years now. We've known each other on and off the field. We played together everywhere, he's a huge reason why I re-signed as well. We actually talked this morning and were talking about how we want to bring a championship to Utica and we're both here for two, three years. This is our new home, we want to get it done here. We want to give back to the fans that help us so much and we just want to give to Utica.
What was your favorite moment from the 2022-23 season?
The first one— definitely Cristhian Segura's goal against KC in the playoffs. We were down 3-0. Came back, second half, tied it up 5-5 going into overtime. I played the ball to Segura and then Cristhian just takes on the whole team. Takes five guys, toe pokes it in, I mean— kid's incredible. One of the best players I've ever played with. Just doing that in front of our home crowd and such a big game to knock out KC which was a great team last year. The atmosphere, everything, like one of the best moments by far.
Another one would definitely have to be my debut. Halftime, you know, I came out... first play of the game, I gave up a goal, you know, it was a rough start, I gave up a goal to Moy [Moises Gonzales], and he used to play for Utica too. And I was like, "oh wow, this is gonna be bad." But at halftime, I was like, "you know what, I'm a baller, and I'm gonna show these guys what I can really do." I got on the mic, and I told them, "I'm a baller guys, don't worry, I got you guys." Came out second half, I scored two goals, two bangers. We ended up winning 8-7. And from there, we just started winning. We finished the season 11-3. We're hoping to repeat that this year and actually make it to the finals and win a championship.
Describe the atmosphere at the Adirondack Bank Center.
Man, the atmosphere is amazing. I've played on five teams in this league. I've played in every arena. UCFC has the best fans, the best atmosphere. It's the loudest. Having those seats packed and for 5,000 people there, it's super loud. The horn, the [Miller Lite] Biergarten— the people are wild right there. It's incomparable to any team.
Teams come and they don't like to play in our arena. Definitely Seventh Man of the Year is our fans and they help us get through a lot of games. They're going to help us win a championship.
Tommy talked about how this could be one of your best years as a pro— how do you feel going into it?
I feel amazing. I think I'm in the best shape of my life right now. I'm playing the best soccer that I've played, I think ever in my career. I give a huge thanks to Hewerton and Tommy for believing in me, re-signing me and thinking long-term with the team. Besides last year, I haven't finished a full season. I was dealing with a lot of injuries— I've been unlucky with injuries, which it happens to a lot of people, but... I've been doing a lot of different things.
I'm in a great mental space now. My body's feeling great. I'm doing a lot of different things. I'm really trying to have my best season and help the team win a championship as best as I can. I believe that Tommy is right in saying that this will be my best season because I believe these are my prime years coming up. I'm willing to give everything I can to Utica and to bring a championship home to us.