By Matthew Ondesko, Managing Editor Photos: Geoff Schneider/Sports Union
It is probably one of the most physical positions on the pitch. Playing in the midfield is no easy task. It takes a lot of physical and mental strength to play in the midfield. A player needs to have the smarts to make the right play at the right time.
And they need to be able to be physical on the ball when need be. Sure there are your play makers, your Andrea Pirlo’s. But, you also need your Danielle De Rossi’s. Those players that aren’t afraid to go in hard for a tackle to break up the play.
Teams need those two-way players that can do just a little of both when called upon.
Buffalo State College has been off to a terrific start because they have had solid play all around from the forwards to the keeper. One of those players having a breakout season is junior Nemanja Simic.
The Grand Island native has waited for this type of season since he stepped on the campus of Buffalo State a coupe of years ago. Simic has seen a lot of adversity over the years, and now is enjoying some of his best soccer.
“Overall, my time at Buffalo State has been successful so far but I’ve had to deal with lots of adversity. The summer going into my freshman year I was hit with adversity. My original college choice cut their men’s program only a few months before the season. That’s when former Buffalo State coach, Mark Howlett, contacted me and influenced me to play for Buffalo State,” stated Simic. “My first year I didn’t play much which was something new to me. It was a great learning experience though because I was able to train alongside good players and learn from a good coach. We went on to be ranked 11th in the nation at one point and hosted the first round of the NCAA tournament. The following year, coach Howlett left for SUNY Geneseo due to personal reasons and interm head coach, Franco Cardillo took over. That was another bit of adversity I had to deal with during my time here. My sophomore year, I earned a starting role, which was what I was working towards. It was a tough year for me losing lots of teammates and the coach who brought me here. Junior year has been successful so far starting off 6-0 and working towards achieving that national recognition the team earned during my first year.”
Simic has been in the midfield since his days at Grand Island High School, a power in boys high school soccer in Western New York. He has honed his skills over the years to become an even better player now then he was in high school.
He has the type of game where he can make the quick decisions that it takes to be a play-making midfielder, while at the same time going in hard on a slide tackle.
“Playing in the midfield is one of the most difficult roles on the field, connecting attack and defense. Being able to play quickly and get open for your teammates are key components to a solid midfielder. Also running up and down the pitch constantly is something a midfielder needs to do so being physically fit and mentally strong contributes to a good center mid,” stated Simic. “Playing in the midfield you have to have a special mindset because of the demands physically. You have to think about your teammates and always being there to support them whether that be recovering to put in a tackle or being open for a pass. To always be there requires a selfless mindset. Playing both a physical and mental game in midfield is crucial. Having a high soccer IQ, knowing where to be on the field at all times is important. Having a high awareness is also important in the midfield and that’s part of the mental game. Midfield is a position on the team that makes it tick. If you’re not linking every almost every play the team might not be successful so it is important to be physically fit.”
That type of mindset has helped Simic while at Buffalo State. His game is suited for the college game. Over the summer, Simic doesn’t rest. He keeps sharpening his skills in the BDSL - the top summer league in Western New York.
There Simic plays against players of all ages. He could be playing against high school kids one game, and 30-years olds the next. That type of competition only has helped his game as he got ready for his junior year.
“Over the summer I play for Beast City in the BDSL which is a group of mostly younger, college players. Playing against some of the older guys has taught me to play smart and has definitely increased my competitiveness,” stated Simic. “If you know anything about the BDSL it is a physical league so getting the ball off your foot is very important. Also being top in the league is desired by everyone for bragging rights so every game is very competitive.”
If there is one thing that Simic doesn’t like is being taken off the field as a sub. He has made sure he worked on his game enough where he can be an asset for the full 90 minutes on the pitch.
Maybe it’s a cultural thing. After all, soccer is in his blood. Growing up that’s all Simic knew was soccer. When he went back to Serbia to visit friends and family, Simic would play soccer. That’’s what they wanted to do.
“I feel like my biggest attributes on the pitch are probably my work ethic and communication. I always work hard to get up and down the field the full 90 minutes and try to keep my team organized,” stated Simic. “Soccer is an important part of Serbian culture so growing up I’ve always been around the game. From cheering on the national team to playing pick up with friends. When I go visit family in Serbia almost every night my cousins and I would get together with all the other kids in the town and play until we could barely run anymore.”