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Former Toronto FC manager Preki back in soccer, this time in Sacramento

07/16/2013 07:49 EDT | Updated 09/15/2013 05:12 EDT
Former Toronto FC manager Preki is back in soccer, this time in charge of the new USL Pro franchise in Sacramento.

The club, which is due to unveil its name on Thursday, is slated to start play in 2014 with the ultimate goal of becoming an MLS franchise.

"I think it's incredibly exciting," Preki said in an interview Tuesday. "Also it's incredibly challenging. But the good thing is I'm getting the job from the beginning and I'll be able to implement things I would like to be done here from the get-go."

Preki, whose full name is Predrag Radosavlijevic, and director of soccer Mo Johnston were fired by Toronto in September 2010 with the team languishing with a 7-10-7 record. Preki was given a three-year contract when he took over the team in November 2009.

Preki said he had missed managing — "That's what I do, that's what I love." But he took his time choosing his next job, saying he had been in talks with the Sacramento ownership over the head coaching job for three to four months.

"After my last experience (in Toronto), I really wanted to make sure I ended up in a organization going in the right direction from the first moment. And that I don't make a mistake again," he said.

He was reluctant to speak about his experience in Toronto.

"I can tell you just two things. No, I was not given a proper chance and I tried to change the culture from the get-go. Obviously we had a different vision and that's why it didn't work out. And I'm sorry that it didn't work out because I think the fans in Toronto deserve a winner there. For whatever reason it didn't work out with me.

"But I don't to go into details because that's behind me and I have an incredibly exciting project in front of me and I've got to look forward."

Preki isn't the only former Toronto FC coach to find new work. Former assistant coach Bob De Klerk, who was part of the Aron Winter management team that came after Preki, has landed a role with Dutch amateur side Ter Leede.

Preki, who was born in the former Yugoslavia and became an American citizen in 1996, was named MLS coach of the year in 2007 with Chivas USA. He started his coaching career at Chivas as an assistant.

Preki played for Everton and Portsmouth in England and was a star for Kansas City in the MLS, earning the MLS Award and scoring title twice.

The Sacramento franchise is led by Warren Smith, senior vice-president of business development for Clean World Partners and co-founder of minor league baseball's Sacramento Rivercats.

The new franchise, is scheduled to join the USL Pro league, which currently has 13 teams, in 2014 but is expected to play some exhibition games this year.

Sacramento technical director Graham Smith, a former Chelsea board member, welcomed Preki's arrival.

"It's a coup for us and I believe it's also a coup for me because it's his way back. ... I'm on board with his vision. I've known Preki for a long, long time — from the days when he came over to England and played for Everton. So I'm well into his philosophy on football. I'm in accord with the way he feels about the game. I think I can manager his demeanour and his moods.

"And at the same time he now, unlike a lot of coaches, will have a clean page with no interference. All he will have is the assistance that he craves, the counsel that he craves. Something which I don't believe he has before in the organizations he's worked in.

"I am still nonplussed as to why he's not an MLS coach in terms of position, because he is an MLS coach. He knows what he's doing and I can just never understand why he wasn't brought back into the fold after leaving Toronto. But that's behind him."

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