TUKWILA, Wash. — Predrag “Preki” Radosavljević has good reason to look forward to the Seattle Sounders’ trip to Sacramento for its first-ever match against Sacramento Republic FC Thursday. At a time when his coaching career looked like it might be on the ropes, Preki’s USL success revitalized his career and ultimately led him to Brian Schmetzer’s coaching staff.
As a newly-minted assistant coach for the Seattle Sounders, Preki is a visible and vocal presence on the training ground. The former midfielder can be seen running players through a variety of drills, offering the players guidance. One of those players has been Jordan Morris, who Sounders owner Adrian Hanauer said Preki has been tasked with working with specifically.
There was a time, though, when it looked like Preki was out of coaching forever. After leaving Chivas USA in 2009 by mutual consent, the former USMNT man failed to last the 2010 season at Toronto FC, getting fired along with general manager Mo Johnston in mid-September.
What followed was a three-year absence from coaching before the Republic, looking to make a splash, called up Preki in 2013 and asked if he wanted the job.
“It was important,” Preki said Tuesday. “I had a long setback after Toronto. I needed to restart my career. That place accepted me with open arms and the city was great to me. “
The Republic rampaged to success in its inaugural 2014 USL campaign, compiling a 17-7-4 record in front of sellout crowds that included a 10-match unbeaten run in the second half of the season. Preki’s team claimed the ultimate prize in September, knocking off the Harrisburg City Islanders 2-0 to reestablish his presence in the soccer community.
“We built something special there,” Preki said of Sacramento. “Not just won the title but built a team that really played and entertained the people who came to the stadium to watch.”
After announcing his resignation in 2015 to pursue coaching opportunities in England, radio silence followed. Preki was linked with a move to Leicester City and was at one point the bookmaker’s favorite to lead the Foxes after Nigel Pearson was sacked, but nothing ever materialized and Preki’s second absence was notable enough for the hashtag #WhereisPreki to take off.
Eventually, though, Preki resurfaced with St. Louis FC, coaching for a year before landing in Seattle.
After coaching in the lower divisions, Preki feels comfortable working with players at the highest level of American soccer:
“It’s fun (being here), but it’s nothing new to me,” he said. “Once you learn how to ride a bike, you never forget. Obviously, the players at this level are higher quality, so it’s almost easier to work with (them).”
The staff’s primary focus will be to get players minutes and avoid injuries down at Papa Murphy’s Park, but Preki can be forgiven if he takes an extra moment to look around and reminisce at the place that gave him his second shot.
“It will be fun,” said Preki. “I love the place. I loved the working environment that we had there, so I’m looking forward to seeing all of those people.”