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Cenanovic continues to grow confidence in her game

by Matthew Ondesko: Managing Editor

Scoring in soccer is an art. Not everyone can do it, and not everyone has the mental makeup to be able to handle all the pressure that comes about when leading the line.

There is an art to scoring goals, it just isn’t get the ball on your right foot and shoot it into the net. If that’s all it took, a lot of players would be scoring at a high pace.

“In training, I make sure to stay game-realistic with my shooting practice, based on my position. During the beginning of a match, I like to analyze my defender,” stated Maja Cenanovic. “I learn which foot they are dominant with, and which way they step in to take the ball. Once I understand my opponent and her movements, I am able to modify my moves depending on where she leaves the space. I focus on making one, quick movement into space, and getting my shot off almost immediately.”

As an attacking player, Cenanovic is always looking to create space. While some might think she is just creating space for herself to shoot, Cenanovic is also creating space for teammates.

She is able to draw other defenders in with her pace, which will then open space for her teammates to run on to. One quick look, and pass, will open up the game, and get her teammates on the run to finish off the pass.

“As an attacking player, I am always looking to create scoring opportunities for my team,” stated Cenanovic. “When I receive the ball, I like to take my time to draw the defender in, and wait for the moment when they will finally step. The minute the defender loses their patience, I take my space.”

Cenanovic is a gifted attacking player. She just isn’t one-foot dominate - which gives defenders problems. Some players at this level will just use their best foot to do all the work. What makes Cenanovic special is she can shoot off both feet.

Being able to have power off both gives defenders problems. They don’t know which way she is going, because when she makes a move she can open up by using her left or right. This isn’t something that just came about off a whim.

Cenanovic practices likes she plays. It’s all about making practice as close to game-like conditions as possible.

“I think that having a strong foot on both sides distinguishes you between being a good player and a great player. I like to be game-realistic in my training, which is why I train both feet equally. As a player, I have found that being able to use both feet effectively, can significantly enhance your game, as you become much more unpredictable on the field,” explained Cenanovic. “Defenders often rely on knowing which foot you prefer to use, so if you can confidently use either, it makes it much harder for them to anticipate your moves. Furthermore, being able to use both feet allows you to adapt to certain situations during a match. It can improve your options for passes, as you won't be limited to only playing to one side of the pitch, while it also enhances your shooting opportunities. Moreover, my position on the pitch often relies on me being able to use both feet, at any given point in the game. As a result of this, I have been forced to become dominant in both, and I can confidently say that it is one of the best aspects of my game.”

People are taking notice , especially up north. In the latest rankings, Cenanovic is ranked in the top 10 (number 6). It shows that all the hard work Cenanovic is putting in is paying off.

Being ranked that high is a dream come true, and something Cenanovic has been dreaming off since she first put on her cleats as a little girl.

“Being ranked in the top 10 is an unbelievable honor that I have dreamed of since I was a little girl. It is a validation of my hard work, perseverance, and dedication over the years,” stated Cenanovic. “The recognition I have received comes with a great deal of responsibility and humility, and I am incredibly excited for the rankings in the upcoming years.”

It also puts higher expectations on Cenanovic. Not that she was flying under the radar before, but now more people will be paying attention to Cenanovic and her game. It’s also opened up a lot of opportunities for her when it comes to being looked at for playing soccer at the next level.

So, while the ranking bring extra pressure, at times, there is more good that comes from it in the end.

“Personally, that ranking has only motivated me to work even harder. It puts higher expectations on me, which in turn, allows me to set higher goals for next year’s ranking. I have FTF Canada to thank for providing me, along with countless other youth soccer players, with an outlet to showcase our skills in front of coaches, as well as build our resumes on a social media basis,” said Cenanovic. “The ranking has opened up countless opportunities for me to continue to learn and grow in the sport of soccer. Additionally, this achievement has provided me with more confidence, both on and off the pitch, as well as the rewarding belief that hard work really does pay off.”

The top 10 list is a whose who of soccer talent. Some of the girls come to Buffalo to play for the Western New York Flash, the premier club team in the area. Playing against, and practicing with, some of the best girls in Canada only makes Cenanovic batter.

It allows Cenanovic to push herself more knowing that she is going up against some of the best of the best in her country.

“Competing against some of the best soccer talent in Canada has been an incredibly enriching experience that has pushed me to bring my best to the field,” stated Cenanovic. “Playing against such skilled opponents has undoubtedly been challenging, but it has also made a significant impact on my growth as a player.”

This beautiful game has enabled Cenanovic to see a lot of different things. It has provided her with the opportunity to see the world, and to get interest from different school around the United States.

It also has given her all the confidence in the world that she can compete against anyone - and that she doesn’t need to take a back seer to no one.

“The countless experiences I have been so lucky to have, including traveling around the world for my sport, as well as getting in touch with schools of my interest, have taught me how to stay focused and composed, even in the most intense situations,” stated Cenanovic. “Through competing against this tough level of competition, I have gained a deeper understanding of myself, and where my strengths and weaknesses lie on the pitch. I learnt about the importance of making sure that I am in the right mindset any time I step onto the pitch. Competing against the best has shown me what is possible with dedication and effort, while it has also taught me resilience, in addition to inspiring me to reach new heights in my soccer career.”

As the recruiting process begins, Cenanovic knows what she wants as she starts looking at schools. She wants a school that excels in academics, but also is a good school for women’s soccer.

She wants to continue to grow her game, and hopes to find a school, and coach, that can help her with that.

“Academics will always be a critical factor for me when considering a school, seeing as it has always been a priority in my life. I want to attend a school that is well-renowned for the program that I decide to study,” stated Cenanovic. “However, finding a school that excels in women’s soccer is equally as important to me. I want to play at the highest level possible, for a coach that I can learn from, and also someone who believes in my abilities. Ultimately, wherever I choose to go, I am going to wear my school colors proudly.”

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