Republic’s Preki, Braun will have homecoming of sorts today against Chivas

Though they downplay it, today’s match will be a homecoming of sorts for Republic FC coach Predrag “Preki” Radosavljevic and star forward Justin Braun when they play the Chivas USA Reserves at the StubHub Center Track and Field Stadium in Carson at 11 a.m.

Preki and Braun had their greatest pro career highlights as coach and player with Chivas, the now-struggling Major League Soccer franchise.

Preki led Chivas to its three best seasons, including in 2007, when it was 15-7-8 and lost 1-0 to the Kansas City Wizards in the conference semifinals. Preki was named MLS Coach of the Year in his debut season.

“They’re always going to be a little special in my heart because that was my first head-coaching job,” said Preki, who was 41-36-30 with Chivas. “I loved my time down there, but it’s a different group of people, different group of players.”

Braun scored 24 goals in 96 matches with Chivas from 2008 to 2011. The 6-foot-2 forward said some Chivas fans still keep in contact with him through social media.

“I really enjoyed my time down there, and they have a special place because that’s where I got my start,” Braun said. “But now it’s about Sacramento and helping this club do well. Hopefully, we can go down there and come away with a win.”

Chivas has been plagued by turmoil and declining attendance during four consecutive losing seasons. In February, MLS bought the franchise from Mexican billionaire owner Jorge Vergara and plans to sell to a new ownership group that will rebrand the team.

Though Chivas’ reserves team doesn’t play in USL Pro, today’s match will count in the standings, giving Republic FC an opportunity for its first victory.

Republic FC tied LA Galaxy II 1-1 in its USL Pro debut last week, and Preki and Braun were impressed with the play, though they were disappointed they didn’t win.

Braun scored the franchise’s first goal in the 33rd minute on a header in the box when Galaxy II had problems clearing Max Alvarez’s corner kick.

The Republic appeared to be in line for another opportunity just before halftime when forward Mike Fucito, on loan from the Earthquakes of MLS, was knocked down in the box, but no penalty was called.

Galaxy II tied the score in the 82nd minute when forward Chandler Hoffman, taking advantage of a defender who slipped and another who over-ran the play, scored from the left side off a pass from Raul Mendiola.

“I was really happy with the group,” Preki said. “I thought in the first half we bossed the game; we had a lot of the possession. It was just unfortunate we didn’t get that second goal. In the second half, we worked hard, but we lost some concentration and focus and turned the ball over too much.”

Goalie Jake Gleeson, who had five saves against Galaxy II, was recalled by the Portland Timbers for their match Saturday with the Seattle Sounders while starter Donovan Ricketts served the second of a two-game suspension. Gleeson, who did not play in Saturday’s 4-4 tie, is expected to be back in goal for Republic FC today.

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