by Michael Lewis

Moving twice between teams within four months could be devastating for some players.

Not Stefan Mijatovic.

He has embraced every team he has joined over the years.

"My whole career has been a crazy journey, battling injuries," he said. "I played on eight teams in eight years, one being an outdoor team, but seven indoor teams. I'm always on the move. Some people think it's a bad thing. Other people think it's a good thing. I'm young. I don't have kids and a wife. I love going to different cities and meeting new people, different teammates. I think maybe in the next three years or when I turn 30, I'd want to maybe sit down somewhere and maybe sign a three-year deal or a five-year deal somewhere and maybe call it my home."

At the cusp of the Major Arena Soccer League season on Nov. 8, 2023, Utica City FC sent the defender-forward and Quenton Swift to the Empire Strykers for four-time league MVP Franck Tayou after the Minifootball World Cup in Dubai.

Midway through the campaign on Feb. 27, Mijatovic was forced to pack his bags again when the Strykers loaned the 27-year-old to the Tacoma Stars for the rest of the campaign.

Mijatovic has shown much resiliency in his travels.

"The journey is kind of hard, but I don't mind it," he said. "I'm young. I like experiencing new things. I'm happy where I’m at right now. I think I got a lot better during the season because I had to do a lot for [Empire]. Coming here I know my workload is a lot less. I have a system to play in, and I'm winning games. The journey is paying off. As long as the journey pays off, I'm happy with all of it."

Since starting his MASL career with the Chicago Mustangs in 2016, Mijatovic also has performed with the Orlando Seawolves, Florida Tropics, St. Louis Ambush, Utica City FC, Strykers and now the Stars.

He has lived in and seen several parts of the U.S., from the Midwest to the Northeast to the Southeast to Southern California and to the Pacific Northwest.

Quite a travelogue for a soccer player.

It should not be surprising that Mijatovic has made fans in every city.

"A lot of fans come to see athletes in the MLB NBA, NFL," he said. "The guys are making millions of dollars. They don't get themselves involved with the fans as much as we do. I make sure to take the time after games, before games to go up to every fan, go around until everybody leaves. I make sure that I'm interacting with them, giving autographs, pictures, whatever they want. They're here to support us. Without them, we probably wouldn't even be playing.

"I play hard, and fans can see that I give my all every game. Every city I've gone to, people have seen that and respected me. I got a lot of fans from St. Louis and Utica that still talk to me."

Saying that, Mijatovic was asked the first thing that came to mind in each of those teams' cities:

  • Chicago - "First thing is a windy city, man. There's nothing like Chicago. That wind just goes right through you. It's crazy winters right there."
  • Orlando - "The first thing that comes to mind is the accidents on I-4. It's terrible. It's terrible out there. Nobody knows how to drive. So many tourists. Wild."
  • Lakeland, Fla. (Florida Tropics) - "Lakeland is one of the fastest growing cities in the world ...  in the United States. That's what Clay Roberts [Former Tropics head coach] told me. It's on the rise, for sure. I like that city. Pretty clean, too."
  • St. Louis - " To be honest, the first thing that pops in my mind is misery. Misery, like Missouri." 
  • Utica, N.Y. - "The best fans in the league. I know it's going to make some people mad but by far the best fans in the league and my favorite place to play definitely, by far."
  • Ontario, Calif. - "One of the best arenas but definitely love the fans as well. But the weather. You can't beat Cali weather. There's nothing like it."
  • Tacoma, Wash. - "I love the soccer part of it, but the living part, man, it's terrible. It's always raining. There's maybe been in this whole month I've been here two days that it was sunny. Every other day, it's raining 24/7. Always cold. But I get to focus on my soccer, which is a very good thing, which is probably why we're doing so well. I'm playing at a high level, and we're just focused on soccer out here and nothing else. No distractions out here. That's what I like."

With the Strykers, the versatile Mijatovic was asked to perform as a forward. He tallied 10 goals and 11 assists in 15 games. As a defender with the Stars, he has recorded six goals and four assists in 10 contests. His 16 goals and 15 assists this season are career highs.

"I've never cared about stats," he said. "I've always cared about winning. I've had pretty decent numbers. But at the end of the day, we want to win games. I'm able to play on a team where we're getting wins and I'm able to just play defense. I don't need to score goals or assist. It's a plus when I do but just to not let my guy score. Don't let any of the target men score and get out and block shots for our keepers. Our offense has enough power to do their part. I've always said defense wins championships and that's where I think I'm most valuable."

The 6-foot,4, 225-lb. Mijatovic said that he liked his chances for a title, especially since the Stars boast the ageless Nick Perera, 37, who leads the league with an average of 3.0 points a game (19 goals, 20 assists in 13 matches) and veteran goalkeeper Chris Toth, who represented the USA in the recent FIFA Beach Soccer World Cup in Dubai.

"I love it here. It's literally night and day from when I was at Empire," Mijatovic said. "I'm going from a team with three wins all season to a team has been together for a long time. I came from a rebuilding team to a team that had everything in place already. And then playing with the MVP, the best player in our league with Nick and then the best goalie in our league, with Chris, and Justin, it's incredible."

Mijatovic was referring to Justin Stinson, who was loaned by the Strykers to Tacoma on March 6.

Since Mijatovic joined Tacoma, the Stars have gone 6-0 and are on a seven-game winning streak. In his debut, Mijatovic endeared himself to his new teammates and fans. He connected twice in the fourth quarter, including the game-winner with 59 seconds left to lift Tacoma to a 5-4 overtime win over the Harrisburg Heat at accesso ShowWare Center on March 5.

"My debut was crazy," he said.

Entering the final weekend of the season, Tacoma is in third place in the Western Division with a 14-6-2 record and 41 points, trailing defending champion and second-place Chihuahua Savage (14-7-1, 42) by a point. The Stars visited the San Diego Sockers on Saturday, March 30 and the Strykers on Sunday, March 31.

"We're on a seven-game win streak," he added. "We're looking to get two more wins this weekend. Make it nine wins going into playoffs and then you never know what can happen in playoffs. We're all feeling good. We think we're the team to beat right now."

The Stars are one hot team, having set team records for most wins in a season, longest winning streak and qualifying for the playoffs for the earliest time in its history.

"We're excited. I'm definitely excited," Mijatovic said. "I thought the season was going to be a waste. Being able to play in the playoffs is a blessing. So, I'm hoping that God's working all these things and aligning all the stars right so this will be my first championship."

Regardless of this weekend’s results, Tacoma will meet Chihuahua in the Western Division semifinals.

The Stars recently defeated the Savage in two consecutive home games, 7-6 on March 15 and 5-4 on March 16, overcoming late deficits on both occasions.

"The heart of this team, that's why I feel like we're going to go so far," Mijatovic said. "It's just a bunch of dogs on this team. A lot of heart. This is just winners in general. I respect all of them. I can't wait to see how far we make it."

The Stars took third and they will host the first game and play in the second game in Mexico, which will include a decisive mini-game, if the series is tied. That would be a home advantage.

"I don't think it was good we beat them twice because they're definitely coming after us," Mijatovic said.

"We're ready for them. We got to go to their house. I think if the standings stay like this, we've got to go to their house. We're confident we're going to beat them here. Maybe we beat them in both games. We'll see how it all goes. We're not scared of any team, and we want to beat the best. They're defending champs and we're excited to play them first."

He has only participated in only two playoffs during his career, with St. Louis in 2021 and Utica City last year. So, Mijatovic is hungry to win a championship.

"Man, it means everything," he said. "I've already decided that I'm not playing outdoor anywhere professionally. I'm happy with where I'm at. I like playing indoors. The only thing on my bucket list is winning the MASL championship. I want to win a lot, three, four if I can, but right now it's to get my first one out of the way. That would mean the world to me, for sure."

Regardless of what transpires this spring, Mijatovic will participate in the second The Soccer Tournament, the 7v7 winner-takes-all competition in Cary, N.C. from June 5-10. He was the captain of the Newtown Pride FC, which captured the championship in 2023. However, Mijatovic received a red card in the third game of the group stage, which sidelined him for the rest of the competition. He still received $25,000 as a member of the winning side.

This year, Mijatovic plans on playing with Sneaky Fox, which is expected to include several Stars players.

"I'm looking forward to it," he said.

"It's fun. Winning a million dollars is fun. This year, it's going be super tough. There's more teams. Everybody heard that it's an easy tournament because last year it was kind of more for celebrities and show. This year teams are coming to win that million dollars because they see how easy it was last year. The level is way higher this year.”

But first things first. Mijatovic refused to look that far ahead.

"Right now, obviously, I just have playoffs on my mind," he said. "Not even really focused on anything else."

Especially with so much on the line for Mijatovic and the Stars.

Michael Lewis, the editor of, can be followed on X (formerly Twitter) at @SoccerWriter. Lewis can be reached via email at He has written two books" Alive and Kicking: The incredible, but true story of the Rochester Lancers and a sequel, STILL AND ALIVE AND KICKING: The story of the 21st century Rochester Lancers. It has many features about indoor soccer and MASL players. Both books can be purchased at