- The Washington Times - Friday, May 15, 2009

Growing up in Serbia, Milos Kocic brushed shoulders with some of his country’s finest soccer players. Two of his teammates on the under-19 and under-21 teams - defenders Nemanja Vidic (Manchester United) and Branislav Ivanovic (Chelsea) - have made headlines recently in the Premier League and Champions League.

Kocic, on the other hand, delayed his pro career to get an education.

“I played with all those guys, but I decided to go another way,” he said. “I wanted to go to school. I think school is important for every single player. You never know what’s going to happen.”

Kocic’s studies are behind him now, and the goalkeeper is finally getting his chance on the big stage with D.C. United. The rookie has made two starts this season, including the club’s wild 3-3 tie against Toronto FC on Saturday night at RFK Stadium, where he took the blame for Toronto’s first goal.

Kocic will rest for this weekend’s road game against Chivas USA but could be back in the nets when the club hosts the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday in a U.S. Open Cup match.

Goalie has been United’s most competitive position this season. All three of the club’s keepers have seen playing time. Veteran Louis Crayton has started five games, and Josh Wicks started the first two matches of the season, when Crayton was injured. United coach Tom Soehn is not afraid to rotate his keepers, which on most teams is an established position.

“If you look at the championship teams in the early days of D.C., [the goalies] actually split 50-50 games,” Soehn said. “We are going to establish and learn about each one, and we are going to take our time and do that.”

Kocic came to the United States more than three years ago and played at Loyola of Maryland. After graduating, the 23-year-old had offers to play in Norway, Belgium and Serbia. At the MLS draft in January, Kocic expected to be picked by the Kansas City Wizards, but United grabbed him in the second round with the 21st pick.

“When D.C. switched picks with FC Dallas and picked me, I was so happy,” he said, calling United “the greatest team in America.”

Kocic said he enjoys the competition in the nets.

“All three of us are working hard to push each other,” he said. “Louis has a lot of experience; Josh is a great worker. Every single one of us can step up and play.”

Added Crayton, whose contract ends in July: “He’s a very young, talented, ambitious goalkeeper who is eager and looking for every opportunity. He’s pushing me to work harder.”

Kocic’s transition to playing with United was made easier by having a fellow Serb, defender Dejan Jakovic, on the team.

“You hear Spanish in the locker room; you hear English,” Kocic said. “And now you can hear Serbian.”

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