At 17 years old, Esmir Bajraktarević’s soccer career is just getting started.
On Wednesday the midfielder made his MLS debut and against CF Montreal on Saturday he got his first MLS start. He played all 90 minutes and tallied 51 touches while completing 80 percent of his passes.
New England Revolution head coach and sporting director Bruce Arena touched upon the youngster’s first MLS start after the match.
“I don’t know if I expected [Esmir Bajraktarević] to play the full 90,” he said. “You just have to see how he reacts in the game. I thought he had a good game. He’s got a lot to learn. He has to be able to play on both sides of the ball, but for his first full game I thought he played well, so I give him a lot of credit.”
Bajraktarević had one moment in the match that caught the attention of everyone watching. The 17-year-old with the boldness well beyond his years nutmegged Montreal defender Gabriele Corbo. Bajraktarević touched upon the moment after the match and the mentality he employs when entering a match.
“Yeah, that’s definitely the way I like to play,” the midfielder said. “I like to have fun. That’s just how I grew up, you know, playing futsal and playing in the streets like that. So nutmegs and skill moves are definitely a part of my game. And then going into a game, I just try to get loose and I try to have fun because at the end of the day, that’s what I started doing. It’s worked up until now so why change it.”
Still, Bajraktarević’s spot in the squad is far from locked up. The 17-year-old will have to continue to improve if he wants to get consistent playing time. The midfielder seems to realize this pointing out that his defensive skills could use some improvement when speaking with Seth Macomber after the match.
“I feel like something, especially in the second half when you get tired, is defensively staying tight because that’s something that my coaches have been telling me ever since I was little,” Bajraktarević said. “Because I’m a player that likes to have the ball, I like to go forward but that can only get you so far. So, now at this level, I feel like defensively I need to give 100% all the time. So, that’s something that I think will keep me in the squad.”
Bajraktarević will likely see little playing time once Dylan Borrero and Gustavo Bou are healthy but the midfielder showed he has some skill and will be someone for Revolution fans to keep an eye on.