Union's Haris Medunjanin hoping to boost Bosnia's World Cup chances

Haris Medunjanin - Bosnia and Herzegovina - celebrates

CHESTER, Pa. — As soon as Sunday’s game ended, Philadelphia Union midfielder Haris Medunjanin got a ride to Newark International Airport before taking two flights to get to Bosnia and Herzegovina.

But the grueling travel schedule was made a lot more palatable by the fact that he’s returning to national team duty after leading the Union to a 2-0 win over the Seattle Sounders on Sunday.

Now, he’s hoping for two more big wins as Bosnia and Herzegovina, with their World Cup hopes hanging in the balance, host Belgium on Saturday before taking on Estonia on the road on Oct. 10.

“It’s an honor to play for my country,” Medunjanin said. “If we win two games, we’re going to be in the playoffs for the World Cup, so I’m very excited to be there, to see my family.”

Medunjanin was last called up in June to play Greece but didn’t get into the game – a 0-0 draw. Now, Bosnia are fighting with Greece to clinch second place in a UEFA group that Belgium has already won.

With two games left, Bosnia currently have one more point than Greece, who have two very winnable games vs. Cyprus and Gibraltar left – putting Bosnia in a virtual must-win spot to finish in second place and advance to the next round of qualifying.

“We are experienced guys who played there in a lot of big games, so I hope everybody is ready to step up for this game and beat the Belgium squad, especially at our place,” Medunjanin said. “With the crowd behind us, it can be hell for other teams.”

One of those experienced guys is Medunjanin, who played for Bosnia at the 2014 World Cup – which he called “an amazing feeling and an amazing tournament.” He’s been in and out of the national team picture since then but doesn’t think playing in MLS has hurt him, saying it shouldn’t “matter where you play.”

If anything, his performances with the Union should help raise his stock as he’s been one of the team’s most consistent and dangerous players all year. Against the Sounders on Sunday, he recorded two assists and dictated play so much that Seattle’s Cristian Roldan praised him immediately when asked to assess the game.

Medunjanin now has 10 assists on the season, just the third Union player to hit double digits in that category (Cristian Maidana did it in 2014 and 2015 and Sebastien Le Toux in 2010 and 2013). And even though the Union are still very close to being eliminated from playoff contention with two games left, the first-year MLS midfielder still said he believes in his team, especially at Talen Energy Stadium, where on Sunday they set a franchise record for the most home wins in a season with nine.

“I think a lot of teams when they come here, they respect us,” Medunjanin said. “And you see against a good team like Seattle, they’re fighting to be in the playoffs and you can see we can play with them. And I just don’t know why we can’t do that on the road.

“But we’re going to fight until the end. We have two more games. You never know what can happen.”