Here's something that may be a surprise to American soccer fans: Preki, one-time Chivas USA coach who led the team through some of its best years, and just led Sacramento Republic FC to the USL PRO title last year in the club's inaugural season, has resigned from his job in NorCal on Wednesday and according to a team statement, done so because he's "accepted a position in the United Kingdom."
Speculation shot through the roof that he could be in line to coach Leicester City, who fired Nigel Pearson recently and have yet to fill the manager position. That was based on a tweet from an English betting company:
Predrag Radosavljevic has been backed in from 33/1 to 3/1 to replace Nigel Pearson as Leicester City manager— Sky Bet (@SkyBet) July 8, 2015
...as well as the apparent connections between Preki and Leicester City's owner, Milan Mandaric:
The Preki-to-Leicester makes all the sense in the world. Mandaric connection. St. Louis Storm, Portsmouth, San Jose Grizzlies.— Paul Kennedy (@pkedit) July 8, 2015
But former MLS announcer Arlo White, now working on Premier League broadcasts for NBC and a Leicester City fan, put cold water on the link to that particular team:
A few things pointing to Preki coming to England, but not to #LCFC. Punter who placed the bet could be rinsed! We'll see...— Arlo White (@arlowhite) July 8, 2015
So Preki is going to "the United Kingdom" but we'll have to see if he'll be managing a team, working under someone, and/or if it will be in the Premier League at all.
Of course, he does have EPL experience as a player, having played at Everton 1992-94 and in the second division in 1994-95 with Portsmouth. He's not very well regarded by at least one former Everton teammate, Neville Southall, as this interview from 2012 makes clear.
Although one of the legends as a player in MLS, Preki's coaching history is somewhat more checkered. Taking over for Bob Bradley, under whom he served as an assistant for Chivas USA, his fiery style meshed fairly well with a roster full of veterans and they made the playoffs three straight seasons, but after failing to break through in the postseason, and wearing out his welcome with some of the players and staff, he left the club after the 2009 season. He then went to Toronto FC in 2010, and could not replicate his success at Chivas with the least successful team to date in MLS history, leaving after just one season.
Leaving TFC under acrimonious circumstances, Preki stayed out of pro coaching entirely until he was announced as the coach of new USL team Sacramento Republic in 2013 ahead of their first season. His ability to put a good roster together, using a couple of players from his days with Chivas, Rodrigo Lopez and Justin Braun, and to motivate the new team with a very good following to compete from day one led to the run to the title last year. That, in turn, raised his stock as a coach in the U.S. considerably once more. Who knew, however, that it would raise his stock abroad as well?
For now, we'll have to see exactly where he lands and in what capacity. Preki is a prickly character at the best of times, but if he can harness the best in his approach and find a situation that's mutually suitable, who knows what could happen? And at the very least, he'll be joining former boss Bradley in coaching over in Europe. Best of luck to him there.
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