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Dortmund defender Subotic still has fans in Utah

Published April 30, 2013 10:03 am

This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2013, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Gregory Phillips will be working from home today.

There's a match on after all.

And as Phillips watches Borussia Dortmund try to hold its 4-1 advantage over Real Madrid, the Salt Lake lawyer will be cheering on the German side, specifically one of his former players: Dortmund defender Neven Subotic.

"He was definitely one of our better players," said Phillips, who coached Subotic when he played for the Salt Lake club Sparta Gold in the early 2000s. "He was really tall and big for his age. I always knew he was a good player, and I'm really pleased where he is today."

Subotic and Dortmund sit one match away from a Champions League final appearance. But Phillips still recalls the day the young boy and his father came to his office to sign up for the soccer club, speaking German with Phillips, who grew up speaking the language. Subotic played for a Sparta team of 12-, 13- and 14-year-olds from 2001-03.

"He was always a smart player and could read the game really well," Phillips said.

Phillips recalls Subotic's father, Zeljko, working as a truck driver but still finding time to be at his son's practices and games, watching in a tracksuit and offering advice.

Subotic's family moved to Bradenton, Fla., after two years in Utah. There he caught the eye of U.S. U-17 coaches, including former Real Salt Lake boss John Ellinger (who later tried to get Subotic to sign with RSL).

Phillips, a former player at BYU, has followed Subotic's rise through the soccer ranks.

And he'll be cheering loudly as Subotic tries to move a step closer to one of soccer's biggest stages.

"It's cool to see a kid do something like that," Phillips said.

Twitter: @aaronfalk