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New Revolution goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic is already right at home in Boston

New Revolution goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic (right) will replace Matt Turner when the US international moves to Arsenal in the summer.Mimi Murad

During the 27-year history of the MLS, Serbian players have seemed a natural fit for Chicago and New York, which have large Balkan communities. But Serbian goalkeeper Djordje Petrovic found himself at home in Boston soon after arriving last week to play for the Revolution.

“I wouldn’t agree that there are not that many Serbians here,” said Petrovic, speaking through a translator Tuesday. “I went to an Orthodox Serbian Church and I met 100 or 200 people there.”

In 2010, Steve Nicol set up the Revolution’s first contacts with Serbia, via forwards Marko Perovic and Ilija Stolica, who became Petrovic’s coach with Serbia’s national team.

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“He connected me with Serbian people here,” Petrovic said of Stolica. “Boston is a beautiful city, and it reminds me a lot of European cities.”

Petrovic, 22, is expected to replace Matt Turner, set to join Arsenal FC on a $7 million transfer in July. Petrovic traveled with the Revolution (2-5-1, 7 points) but was not on the bench for a 3-2 loss to D.C. United last week, and his status for Saturday’s game against Inter Miami has not been determined.

“I think I’ll be ready to play once I fully adjust and adapt a little more,” Petrovic said. “Because, as you know, my English is not perfect.”

Petrovic, 6-foot-4, 195 pounds, has been a three-year starter for FK Cukaricki in Belgrade, earning a national team call-up that was slated to be his first trip to North America last year. But COVID-related visa issues nixed a game against the United States, Serbia instead visiting the Dominican Republic and Panama, playing to two 0-0 ties.

Petrovic has also been communicating with the Chicago Fire’s Luka Stojanovic, a former teammate with Cukaricki, plus former Fire coaches Veljko Paunovic and Aleksandar Saric.

“I decided to join this league because I was watching this league a lot prior to joining it,” Petrovic said. “And I think that this league is becoming better and it’s improving a lot. I watched a lot of Chicago Fire games and some of my teammates used to play there, like Luka Stojanovic moved here, too, and that’s why I decided that. I think that this can help me and that I will go to the World Cup eventually.”

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Petrovic, who also performed for Stolica with Serbian junior national teams, has been on the bench for senior national team games but did not figure in the plans as Serbia became the first European nation to qualify for the 2022 World Cup.

The Revolution have recruited some of their best goalkeepers from within MLS or through tryouts. Matt Reis, the Revolution’s all-time goalkeeper appearance leader, initiated a move to the Revolution because he believed he would have a chance to earn a starting role in 2003. Bobby Shuttleworth, a starter in the 2014 MLS Cup, Turner, and backup Brad Knighton were signed by the Revolution after performing in preseason games. The signing of Petrovic marks the first time the Revolution have paid a transfer fee ($1 million to Cukaricki) for a goalkeeper.

This season, Petrovic surrendered 26 goals in 27 games in all competitions for Cukaricki, which stands in third place in Serbia’s Super Liga.

Revolution sporting director/head coach Bruce Arena called Petrovic “a very promising young goalkeeper, good athleticism, good size, and great potential. My guess is he is going to be pretty good.”

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Arena has experience with one of Serbia’s all-time greatest players, having enlisted Milutin Soskic as goalkeeper coach for the US national team. Soskic guided former Revolution coach Brad Friedel in the 2002 World Cup and was with the national side through the 2006 World Cup.

“I know about the goalkeepers [like Soskic] but they are a different generation,” Petrovic said. “I’ve heard a lot about [Arena] prior to moving here. That’s one more of the reasons why I decided to come here. He is an excellent coach, and he won a lot of trophies. I’m excited to work with him.”