On Dec. 1, Amer Didic stepped on the soccer field at Delray Beach, Florida, as team captain for the Baker University men’s soccer team. This would be the senior’s last collegiate game. The Wildcats lost 2-0 against Columbia, Missouri, sending Didic and his teammates on a solemn plane ride back home.
For most of the seniors, the future was a mystery, but not for Didic. What lay ahead for the Heart 2015 MVP and Defensive Player of the Year was to continue a goal he has pursued as long as he can remember.
“I’ve always wanted to become a pro soccer player from what I can remember,” Didic said. “This aspiration grew stronger as the first year of college came to an end.”
On Feb. 2, Amer Didic was in attendance at the first-ever Swope Park Rangers training session. Didic had first heard about the Rangers when they announced they were making a team. Baker coach Nate Houser helped further by providing Didic with more information.
Didic was invited to join the team during the preseason as a trialist and is now in Tucson, Arizona, competing in the Desert Diamond Cup. Didic recounts how he felt when he was contacted to join the team in Tucson.
“I was excited, of course, but I knew that this was another chance to show myself and get better. Therefore, I felt even more motivated,” Didic said. “I also felt nervous as I knew we were going to play MLS teams during our time there.”
The Swope Park Rangers are affiliated with Sporting KC and will play in the United Soccer League. They have played two preseason games so far in their inaugural season. Didic has played in both games. The first game was against the Colorado Rapids, ending in a 3-1 victory. The second game was against Arizona United SC and ended in a 1-1 draw. Didic’s first two experiences have exceeded his expectations and he thinks his time in Tucson has been well spent.
Some of his former teammates still in Baldwin City are following Didic’s progress.
“I texted him after their first game against the Colorado Rapids when they won 3-1,” senior Andrew Meinking said. “He was really happy about the win obviously and was really pleased with the playing time that he got and his performance.”
Meinking was one of Didic’s teammates and lived across from him his freshman year in the dorms.
“He had always talked about that since freshman year, and you could tell that he always had the ability and the skill to go pro, so yeah, it came as no surprise,” Meinking said.
Didic enjoys the game more than anything else and he likes the challenge that comes with this career path.
“Doing something you love as a career can be challenging,” Didic said. “That is why I am pursuing it. Also, soccer has been with me closely my entire life, and I just can’t see myself without it.”
Didic began building his soccer resume last summer when he was selected by Canadian Interuniversity Sport to represent Canada in the World University Games in Gwangju, South Korea.
Most of the players he met had professional experience. Didic said this was an “eye-opening experience” and gave him “a glimpse of what professional soccer was all about.”
Didic found his time at Baker not only to be an educational in the classroom, but on the field as well.
“Baker soccer helped tremendously as it helped me gain more knowledge of the game,” Didic said. “It gave me the hard working mindset that I strive to live every day, and most importantly, it helped me grow as an individual both mentally and physically.”
Meinking believes Didic’s leadership qualities and personality would be a good addition to any team.
“He was always having a good time at practices and in the locker rooms before games, which I think is important to keep the locker room and the team loose,” Meinking said.
Didic said he is enjoying his time in Tucson, but he misses the team he was a part of at Baker. Since this is the Swope Park Rangers’ first year as a team, everyone is adjusting. Didic refers to it as a “different environment” since he has yet to become as close with this team as he was with his Baker teammates.
The Rangers play their first game in the Kansas City area at Children’s Mercy Park on May 29. The thought of seeing a fellow teammate and friend out on the professional field makes Meinking happy.
“I know that’s what he wants to do, and he’s been working hard for it,” Meinking said. “He’s been working all four years, and all his hard work and dedication is finally paying off for him.”
Didic is aware that he is still a trialist, and there is a chance he won’t be continuing with the Rangers. If signed, he would love the opportunity to come back to Kansas City to play soccer.
“I love Kansas City and love its fan base for soccer,” Didic said. “It would also be fantastic to play so close to Baker where most of my old teammates and friends reside.”