CARSON, Calif. — As a player, Jovan Kirovski experienced things that no other American soccer player to date has experienced.
A graduate of the Manchester United Academy alongside ex-Galaxy midfielder David Beckham, Kirovski was a member of the Borussia Dortmund side that captured the 1996/1997 UEFA Champions League trophy becoming the first American soccer player to ever lift “Old Big Ears.” Several months later, Kirovski once again made U.S. soccer history by winning the Intercontinental Cup (the predecessor to the FIFA World Club Championship) with Dortmund.
Now two years removed from his playing days, which included stops in England, Germany, Portugal, and the United States, Kirovski believes that it is his duty to put that experience to good use as the Galaxy’s first-ever Technical Director. The 37-year-old took the position in January of 2013 after serving as an assistant coach for head coach Bruce Arena for the 2012 season.
With the task of spearheading the club’s Academy and first team scouting efforts, Kirovski believes that he’ll be able to put his unique experiences to good use.
“Bruce Arena and Chris Klein came to me a while ago and asked me to move into this role. It is something that I think is suited perfectly for me,” Kirovski told LAGalaxy.com. “I really enjoy being part of the Galaxy and being part of the team. I grew up in California and I’m a fan of the club and I really want for us to succeed. It was something that I really wanted to do.”
Klein, who served as Kirovski’s predecessor at the academy level prior to taking over as the club President, has already given him a seal of approval.
“Jovan is obviously very qualified. His history as a player and the systems that he’s come through gives him valuable experience for developing the next generation of players for the Galaxy,” Klein told LAGalaxy.com. “The experience that he had playing and coaching with Bruce gives him not only experience, but a tie to and the respect of our first team and their staff.
“His approach has been great, with developing players and being in charge of the technical direction of our club it has to be a labor of love and he’s certainly taken to that,” added Klein. “He’s gotten off to a good start and he’ll be able to build on some of the things we’ve done in the past, but we’ve only scratched the surface with where we’re going to go with this.”
That labor of love that Klein speaks of is clearly evident in Kirovski, who admits that his first goal is to create a “professional environment” with the club. To do so, the club has assembled an experienced collection of coaches including former MLS players like U-14 head coach Ante Razov, U-18 boss Alex Yi and Galaxy legend Mauricio Cienfuegos.
After departing Escondido’s San Pasqual High as a sophomore to join the Manchester United Youth Academy for a chance to become one of illustrious Man United manager Sir Alex Ferguson’s Fergie’s Fledglings, Kirovski hopes to provide the same direction to his own Academy starlets.
“I love coming out and coaching and helping out the young kids, I was in different parts of the world and saw different systems and philosophies and I think that really helps me in what I’m doing” Kirovski told LAGalaxy.com. “I grew up through the Manchester United Youth Academy, one of the best academies at that time and all my experiences there are something that I go to with these young kids here in terms of discipline, working hard and being humble, which are the most important things to impart on the young kids today.”
The task of growing the Galaxy Academy is not without challenges as Kirovski must deal with a robust Academy environment in Southern California as well as the constant specter of Mexican clubs, who will be fighting for the same type of talent. Although the Academy’s amateur status may be an issue, Kirovski is confident that the Galaxy can develop and keep Southern California’s top level talent.
“We want people who want to be Galaxy players. We’re a big club and people want to be a part of our club so we want people who want to be a part of it and want to be first team players with the Galaxy,” said Kirovski. “We’re going to compete with all different clubs and there will be clubs fighting for our players all the time. It’s a difficult task when we can’t sign them at a young age, but we want players who want to be here and play with the Galaxy on gameday.”
Central to that recruitment is the success of Homegrown players like Jack McBean and Jose Villarreal, who have become regular members of the first team.
“When our players come in on gameday and see the players that went through the same system playing with the first team with the likes of Robbie Keane and Landon Donovan, it helps tremendously,” said Kirovski. “It gives them something to work for and it’s important. As we go on and on, it’d be great to have most of our players in the first team come from our academy and that’s our goal.”
To aid in that recruitment effort, Kirovski has already played a direct role in the development of Villarreal, who like Kirovski in his playing days is a forward with immense technical skill.
“He helped me a lot last year with my positioning and technical [aspects of my game], he was the one, who coached me the most out of all the coaches and I felt very comfortable with him,” said Villarreal. “He helped me and everyone else a lot and it’s great to have people like that with the team.”
Kirovski’s role as technical director is not limited to steering the Academy, but also leading the club’s efforts to acquire and scout players across the world. As he currently looks to funnel players in the direction of Arena, Kirovski is confident that the network that he’s acquired across his lengthy career can benefit LA in their bid to attract quality talent.
“I’ve dealt with and seen agents and many of the players that I’ve played with are now coaches all over the world,” Kirovski said. “So I’ve got many connections and contacts and I’ve seen different playing styles and my role is everything that I’ve done throughout my career. It is something that I love to do and it’s something that I love to help the Galaxy getting better and better.”
Ultimately, like any club official, it will be that ability to make the club better over the long and short term that will determine Kirovski’s success, a challenge that the experienced former player is relishing.
“We’re the Galaxy and we want to be the best and produce the best,” said Kirovski. ”That is what I’m here to do.”
Adam Serrano is the LA Galaxy Insider. Read his blog at LAGalaxy.com/Insider and contact him at LAGalaxyInsider@Gmail.com