When one thinks of Southern California, palm trees, sunshine, and the hustle and bustle of Los Angeles comes to mind. But out on the beautiful California coast, amidst the glitz and glamour of Hollywood is one of the United States’ best soccer minds. Edi Mujic, the head coach of the LA Hotspur F.C., has brought a touch of home with him stateside in hopes of changing U.S. soccer culture.
Mujic, born in Croatia on the Dalmatian Coast in the city of Sibenik, lived there for 10 years before his parents moved to Germany where his football career took off. Moving to the town of Wiesbaden, which is home to one of the largest American military bases in Europe, Mujic began playing youth soccer there, shooting up the ranks of the German youth system. Along the way, Mujic also had stops at TuS Medenbach, and the Giessen Soccer Academy. At Giessen, Mujic was the youngest player to date to attend the German training academy. At 14, he went as a striker, and returned at 16 as a goalkeeper. For those in the United States, the Giessen Academy is the German equivalent to the IMG Academy in the United States. Ultimately reaching the Bundesliga with Mainz 05 by the age of 18, his career was cut short by an automobile accident, which resulted in the left side of his body being severely hurt.
Leaving the game of football after his accident, Edi began a career in boxing and as a nutritionist. Little did Edi know at the time, but stepping away from football actually helped him return a few years later. In 1982, Mujic was asked to be an assistant coach and nutritionist for his first club. SC Borussia 04 Fulda, which was a semi-pro team at the time, hired Mujic at the young and tender age of 22.
“I missed the sport, and the accident was really a blessing in disguise for me, because I turned to coaching instead of playing,” Mujic said.
The following year 1. FC Naurod hired Mujic along with the BU Under-18 Academy, where he met one of his mentors Manfred Kobel.
Kobel, who coached across town at a different high school than Mujic attended, had once tried to recruit him to join his team. It ended up working out for both as Kobel was able to hire Mujic for that season to be co-trainer.
In 1985, after already started having experienced more than most athletes do in a lifetime, Edi moved to the United States. After beginning his life in the U.S. in Washington D.C., Mujic eventually settled down in the town of San Pedro in California, which was home to around 30,000 Croatians. After playing some semi-pro soccer, much like the NPSL today, Mujic decided to create his own team. FC Playa Vista was one of many success stories as he moved back into the coaching and youth soccer scene.
When his daughter Frankie began showing interest in soccer, he knew he had to do something. While training individuals at both keeper and striker, Frankie began catching on to what her dad was teaching. It was at this point, Edi and his family moved to Malibu, where he currently resides.
One of the great features of Edi is his extreme humbleness. After winning a boxing title, playing professional soccer in the Bundesliga, and beginning his coaching career in Europe all by the time he was 25, Mujic could have easily come to Malibu and demanded a head coaching position. Instead, Edi began coaching his daughter’s team as a volunteer, but after attending her games and seeing the typical “swarm around the ball” strategy in U.S. youth soccer, Mujic decided he would step up his role.
“This is where my coaching comes in. I take a player, I look at a player, no matter how good the player is, or how bad the player is, at this age they can only get better. That’s my whole thing. So with the youth thing, I give them a job. Kids love that! A lot of coaches I see, say you gotta do this, or you gotta do that, and the kids get overwhelmed. It’s too much.”
Edi explained his coaching techniques this way.
“You have Samantha and you have Jo Ann. Samantha, your job is to give the ball to Jo Ann. Just try to find her. When you give kids one task, it’s amazing. They will actually execute that task. So you tell every single player what you want from them and suddenly you have a team.”
After succeeding with girls of such a young age, the Malibu AYSO asked Mujic to become the professional planner for the whole region. It was a fantastic opportunity, where he worked with kids ages 10-18. After spending time developing the AYSO Extra, Edi was approached by Malibu High School. Starting as the JV coach, he moved up to Varsity as a trainer, helping the team with technical skills. Soon, word was beginning to spread about Edi and clubs began calling him.
Coming from a much different background of playing as well as coaching, these clubs wanted to instruct Edi on how he should handle his teams. He kept turning down positions, until a great opportunity came about. The AYSO players and families approached Mujic about taking them to a club level. It was at this point he approached a man from England in Dan Metcalf.
Metcalf runs the DMS11 Academy, which is known for their championship- caliber play in Southern California. When asking Dan about taking his AYSO players to club, he said he has no policy, you’re the coach, you do what you want, which had been the key phrase Mujic had been looking for.
It was also at this time that Mujic got involved with the WPSL, a women’s semi-pro league. His daughter Frankie was asked to play WPSL, which is ultimately how Edi formed the L.A. Hotspur F.C., where he is now the head coach. It was an amazing opportunity for him to work alongside his daughter, who at 14 is one of the youngest professional soccer players in U.S. history. Having to put the team together in 10 days, it would not have been possible without the help of title sponsor Bunnin Chevrolet.
“Without Leo Bunnin, LA Hotspur F.C. would not have been possible,” said Mujic.
He also mentioned how this season was not about winning so much as it was about development. One of his main goals was to help his girls play a different kind of soccer than what was being played in the United States.
“I hate to sound negative, for me this game is a patience game. Somebody gets a ball, all I hear is go, go, go, go. I think to myself where are they going to go? I understand the mentality, when you look at American football, you don’t throw the ball backwards. The mentality comes from multiple different sports and gets put into soccer. For me, soccer is you have a whole big field, and you have 11 players, you play the patience game. If you have a problem in the midfield, pass it to the center back, then out to the right back, who might give it right back to the center back. It’s all about building the game.”
When addressing the U.S. Men’s National Team at the 2014 World Cup, Mujic had nothing but positive words to describe the job Jurgen Klinsmann has done.
“The U.S. has some of the best athletes in the world, but it’s also a chess game. Klinsmann gets a lot of slack for trying to bring the European way of playing to this country, and a lot of people get offended by this. It should be American this or American that, but that’s not the point. Going to high school in Germany, I was exposed to American football. We used to play U.S. teams versus German teams. The German schools hired the American coaches because they were best at their sport. So they are hired, to show us how to play American football.”
It is that thought process that the United States Soccer Federation went through when choosing Klinsmann to be head coach.
What Klinsmann does on a regular basis for the U.S. Men’s National Team, is the same thing that Edi Mujic tries to do for his team in California. Through patience and technical skill, Mujic’s teams have been extremely successful over the past 10 years.
Edi Mujic is certainly a name for U.S. soccer fans to keep an eye on. He is making a positive impact on the American game and will certainly do so for years to come.
Korrio understands it is your passion for coaching kids that drives you. We also know that the less time you spend dealing with administrative, communication and automation hassles, and the more time you spend on the field, the happier you’ll be. And because you play a crucial role in our children’s lives, we want you spending as much time as possible coaching our kids. Korrio offers a modern approach to coaching by allowing new ways to communicate and develop a community on and off the field. Congratulations to the ISN Star of Coaching this month.