Former Republic FC coach Preki is back in the USL after he was introduced Wednesday night as the new coach of Saint Louis FC.
Preki, 53, led Republic FC to the USL championship in its inaugural season in 2014, when he was also the league’s Coach of the Year. He stepped down midway through the 2015 season for what he said was the opportunity of a lifetime to coach in the United Kingdom. He turned down a seven-year contract offer from Sacramento.
Sports Illustrated linked Preki last year to a conglomerate – headed by former San Jose Earthquakes owner Milan Mandaric, a Serbian American businessman – that reportedly looked at buying one of several clubs that were for sale in the UK. Mandaric once owned English clubs Leicester City, Portsmouth and Sheffield Wednesday.
But the job never materialized for Preki, and a coaching opportunity in Eastern Europe fell through. Preki made an unsuccessful pitch to return to Republic FC as coach.
“There were things in (the) works to take over the club in England,” Preki told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. “In all fairness, I wanted to leave enough time for Sacramento to find someone to keep things going. I made a mistake leaving there early, because that organization was great to me. But it’s behind me now, and I look forward to the new challenge here.”
Saint Louis FC recently completed its second season in the USL, and, like Sacramento, has been mentioned as a potential candidate for MLS expansion. But the team has underperformed with a two-year record of 16-19-23 while missing the playoffs both seasons. Coach Dale Schilly was replaced late in the season by assistant Tim Leonard.
“Saint Louis called me about two months ago to ask about Preki and what we thought of him,” said Republic FC director of football Graham Smith. “I spoke to their general manager, Jeremy Alumbaugh, and told him what a good coach Preki was. I was just surprised. Saint Louis is a long way from the EPL. But it’s going to be very exciting to have him back in the USL. Saint Louis is an ambitious outfit.”
Preki was one of the biggest names in American soccer as a player, and he compiled an MLS record of 52-47-40 as the coach of Chivas USA and Toronto FC. He was 29-14-7 with Sacramento.
Block party – Republic FC on Saturday will host a season-ending, family-friendly block party from noon to 5 p.m. for season-ticket holders and fans that will include players and staff. It will be at the Republic FC headquarters, 2421 17th Street, which will be closed to traffic between Broadway and X Street.
Admission is free, but fans are asked to RSVP at Eventbrite.
USL playoffs – Major League Soccer’s impact on the USL is evident as three of the four USL playoff finalists are MLS second teams. The fourth-seeded Swope Park Rangers, Sporting Kansas City’s affiliate, will play the No. 6 Vancouver Whitecaps FC 2 on Saturday for the Western Conference championship. The No. 1 New York Red Bulls II, the USL regular season champions, will play No. 2 Louisville City FC, the only independent team among the four, on Sunday for the Eastern Conference title.
Colvey’s call – San Jose Earthquakes defender Kip Colvey, who played six games on loan this season with Republic FC, played the full 90 minutes for the New Zealand national team in its 1-1 draw with the United States in a friendly Tuesday in Washington, D.C.