When Pittsburgh Riverhounds midfielder Nick Kolarac steps foot on the pitch at Highmark Stadium, it’s familiar—and not just because he’s been part of the team since 2015. Kolarac grew up in Pittsburgh with the Riverhounds right in his backyard.
He remembers when the Riverhounds played at the Chartiers Valley and Bethel Park High Schools. Being a local, it was always a goal of his to play for the team.
His road to playing professional soccer started young. Kolarac’s parents got him on the pitch at the age of three. At age eight, Kolarac knew he wanted to be a professional soccer player. Kolarac’s father, Tom Kolarac, taught his son through one-on-one training.
Another person influential in Kolarac’s progress was David Flavius, a former Riverhounds player, who was Kolarac’s club coach from ages 12 to 14.
“He’s a very liked and talented young player from the Pittsburgh area,” Flavius says. “I was fortunate to get to coach him at the very young age at North United Classic club. He comes from a very supportive family. Seeing where he is today in his playing career, you can’t help be proud for him that his excellent work ethic and love for the game has paid off.”
After his time playing high school and youth club soccer, Kolarac went off to Saint Francis University, a small, private school in Pennsylvania. During his time with SFU, Kolarac made 73 appearances, scored 18 goals and recorded 14 assists. He majored in marketing.
“SFU is the 2nd smallest Division One school in the nation, if I am not mistaken,” Kolarac says. “Yet we hold our own in many sports, especially men’s soccer. I went to SFU was because it was the best fit for me. I really enjoyed my teammates up there who are still some of my best friends today. Also, Michael Casper, the head coach, was an amazing person. He made me a better player in so many different ways and aspects.”
During his time at SFU, Kolarac also played club soccer during his offseason. In 2013, he played with the IMG Academy Bradenton in Bradenton, Florida. He recorded 10 appearances before he went to the Michigan Bucks of the Premier Development League (PDL) in 2014, where he made 13 appearances and scored a single goal. In 2014, the Bucks won the PDL championship.
“Michigan Bucks is a top class organization with Dan Duggan, Gary Parson and Demir Muftari all leading the way,” Kolarac says. “I honestly cannot say enough great things about the organization and the people with the Bucks. We won the PDL championship that year with a fantastic group of guys. … Hands down best summer I have ever had was 2014 winning the PDL championship with the Bucks.”
After his time with the Bucks ended and he graduated from college, Kolarac went to Colorado for a trial with the MLS’ Colorado Rapids. After a good senior season at SFU, the Rapids got in touch with Kolarac’s college coach and expressed interest. Kolarac traveled out to Colorado and played against some of the team’s reserves and other college players hoping to get drafted in the 2014 MLS Draft.
“The Colorado Rapids trial was very cool because it was my first real experience trialing at any club,” Kolarac recalls. “The staff was amazing and put us through a good week of training.”
However, Kolarac wasn’t taken in the draft and was instead offered a contract by UMF Tindastóll of the Inkasso League in Iceland. But Kolarac decided he wanted to get his start in the U.S. system and rejected the offer. On March 12, 2015, the Riverhounds signed Kolarac.
Kolarac has had a decent run with the Riverhounds. While he hasn’t been a consistent starter this year, he’s gotten more time on the pitch with Dave Brandt as the team’s head coach.
“My relationship with Dave Brandt is a good one,” Kolarac says. “I feel like I fit his style and system he wants to play. I also feel like my hardworking ability goes hand-in-hand with what he preaches. I like the way he thinks about the game and have nothing but high respect for the guy so far as my coach.”
Kolarac has high respect for the players he shares the pitch with, as well. He’s roommates with Willie Hunt and Michael Green so, naturally, the three players get along. Kolarac even still communicates with players who are no longer on the team, specifically Caleb Postlewait and Karsten Smith.
“Soccer will always connect you with various people from around the world that become your friends,” Kolarac says fondly. “I still keep in touch with Karsten and Caleb quite a bit just to see how they are doing in their lives and career.”
As for his career, Kolarac is proud to be a Riverhound and, from the looks of it, he’ll be back next season.
Kolarac will look for some time on the pitch against the Harrisburg City Islanders on August 27.
Image credit: Paul Rudderow/Philly Soccer Page