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Toronto FC snaps up Preki as head coach
by Ridge Mahoney, November 20th, 2009 6:45AM



[MLS] So much for a coaching search. Just 10 days after being told by Chivas USA that he'd been terminated as head coach, Preki met the press in Toronto as the successor to Chris Cummins and John Carver at the helm of Toronto FC.

Manager, Director of Soccer Mo Johnston moved quickly to hire his former Everton and Kansas City teammate, and believes the quality and experience of Preki, the player, can be harnassed by Preki, the head coach.

"Obviously when I came to Kansas City I knew about Preki, and I spoke to him about coming over," said Johnston of the Belgrade-born attacker who headed to the English Premier League in 1992 after playing indoor soccer in America. "In our league [MLS] he could absolutely dominate a game on his own, just take it over. A great finisher who could also set up goals. Just look at what he accomplished in our league. He led the league in scoring a few times, we won a championship, he was always on the All-Star team.

"There haven't been many like him in our league: [Carlos] Valderrama, Peter Nowak, Jaime Moreno, players of a different class. When you have a player like that on your team, you know what you're getting."

Presumably, Johnston knows what he's getting in his new head coach, who guided Chivas USA into the playoffs in each of his three seasons (2007-9) in charge but stumbled in the conference semifinals. In that first season after taking over from Bob Bradley, who'd brought him into coaching as his assistant, Chivas USA won the Western Conference with a 15-7-8 record.

"I decided a couple of months ago to leave Chivas because I felt I had exhausted all the resources down there and I don't think mentally I had it in me," Preki said of schisms with team management regarding player acquisitions, as well as being a tenant to the Galaxy in Home Depot Center.

"What's life without challenges? If you have no challenges in life or no goals, you're in the wrong business. ... You have to something inside you that charges you towards more success."

His lifetime mark in the regular season of 40-29-21 (W-L-T) gives him a winning percentage of .561, and those three playoff appearances are three more than TFC has attained in its three seasons of play. The 0-3-3 playoff mark is a concern, but for TFC, it's first things first, as in just getting there.

"As a coach he's going to bring stability, discipline and his work ethic," Johnston said to "We know what he brings in terms of quality, and as you can hear he's so passionate. He's driven, driven by success, and that's what this organization needs. The locker room will be shaken up, absolutely. When a new guy comes in, that's going to happen. We'll do our due diligence and get some people in and some people out."

After the press conference, Johnston and Preki headed to Seattle to begin the process of reconstructing one of the most rabidly supported teams in MLS. "The first time I was here a few years ago, when I saw the passion in the stands, I knew this was a place for me," Preki said of a 2-0 Chivas USA victory in August, 2008. "Now, after spending some time with the management here and getting to know some of these people, I definitely know this is the place for me. This is a winning place."

Along with a new grass field and a new head coach, TFC fans can expect new players and perhaps, a new attitude as personified by the men in charge. "I like to think I have that drive and I want people next to me to have that drive," says Preki. "I know [TFC manager and director of soccer Mo Johnston] does, I know the ownership does, and now it's putting together where it really matters, and that's out there in front of the 20,000 people who come every week.

"I demanded a lot out of myself when I played," Preki said. "I wanted to win more than anything in my life, and when I say that, that means I'm crazy competitive. Sometimes it's good or bad, it can go either way, but I like to think it's more good than bad. Once I stepped into coaching it's been the same for me.

"People who want to be here had better be prepared for hard work."


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