Former Torrey Pines student shares arduous road to pro soccer
For Simon Mršić, who grew up in Del Mar, getting cut from the soccer team at Torrey Pines High School was his “first heartbreak.”
Since then he’s embarked on a pro soccer career that has taken him to Croatia, Bosnia, Serbia, the Dominican Republic, where he’s played most recently, and a few different teams in the United States.
“Probably just like most athletes it’s a rollercoaster ride,” said Mršić, 29, who is living and training in the Bay Area. “Everybody maybe sees the tip of the glacier where it’s like, that guy got lucky, he made it. But there are so many stories that nobody knows.”
His stories include learning new languages (including his father’s native Croatian) while playing overseas, persevering through knee surgeries and, more recently, training and waiting out a pandemic to see what opportunities are available to continue his career.
“It’s a difficult lifestyle, you have to always be on standby,” said Mršić, whose father, Ivan, also played professionally and instilled in him a love of the game.
Mršić said he receives “a lot of messages saying what can I do, how do I get to that level?”
“To me, the most important thing I can say, just like probably with work and everything, is just stay dedicated and work hard,” Mršić said.
He learned that lesson when he didn’t make the team at Torrey Pines.
“It opened the floodgates to just keep training harder, and my mentality changed,” Mršić said. “There wasn’t anymore, ‘I’m the best here, and my dad played pro and it’s going to be easy.’ Once I got that ‘no’ to the face at only 14, 15 in high school, that one stung.”
He rebounded from that disappointment by earning a spot on a San Diego Surf Soccer Club team. The club offers a top developmental program for youth players.
Mršić’s club in the Dominican Republic, Delfines del Este, made it to the league final last December but lost. He said he has an offer to stay with that club, but added that he’s weighing other opportunities and remaining hopeful of maybe playing professionally in California.
“To be honest, at 29, I’m looking to stay home, maybe find something here in the states,” Mršić said. “Something here in California would be awesome, maybe San Diego.”
So far, he has had a few stints with soccer clubs in the United States, including the Columbus Crew, San Jose Earthquakes and San Francisco Deltas. But like most players who keep their dreams alive on a year-by-year basis, “you never know until you sign” where you might end up.
Mršić said he can maybe play a few more years, or however long his knees hold up, and eventually wants to consider his coaching chances.
“For the future, I’m not thinking about coaching or anything yet,” he said. “Hoping to get something maybe here in the United States, but gonna wait and see what’s going to happen with this coronavirus.”
Through the ups and downs, Mršić said he never lost his excitement for soccer.
“Sometimes I got down,” he said. “When you don’t get that job you want you’re kind of bummed and you’re down, but I never lost the excitement.”
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