[HALL OF FAME] Hours before Brazil would beat the USA for 15th time in 16 games, Preki, whose goal gave the USA its only win over Brazil, was inducted into the National Soccer Hall of Fame along with Thomas Dooley, Bruce Arena and Kyle Rote Jr. and Soccer America columnist Paul Gardner was awarded the Colin Jose Media Award for his distinguished print and television career in ceremonies at the New Meadowlands Stadium.
Preki Radosavljevic came to the United States from the former Yugoslavia to play indoor soccer, returned to Europe to play outdoor soccer and later starred in fledging MLS.
His U.S. career included the game-winning goal against Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup semifinals only months he represented the USA at the World Cup in France.
“It’s meant a lot," he said of his induction into the Hall of Fame. "This country gave me an opportunity and the thing is you see a lot of times people get an opportunity, but you have to really want it and really embrace that opportunity and go after it. I feel like I really wanted it and I went after it, and I guess people respected my work and what I’ve done and that’s why I’m here.”
Dooley was another key performer on the U.S. national team in the early 1990s. Born to an American father and raised in Germany, he was a Bundesliga standout when he joined the U.S. national team in 1992. He played every minute of the USA’s four matches as a midfielder at the 1994 World Cup and captained the USA four years later in France.
Arena has been the most successful coach in U.S. history, leading the University of Virginia to a record four consecutive NCAA titles, D.C. United to five titles (two MLS and one U.S. Open Cup, Concacaf Champions Cup and Inter-American Cup) in the three seasons and the U.S. national team to two Gold Cup titles and a quarterfinal appearance at the 2002 World Cup.
Rote, son of the NFL star of the same name, was the only American-born player to lead the NASL in scoring. He helped make soccer a legitimate sport in the eyes of many Americans in the mid-1970s when he won the made-for-television ABC Wide World of Sports Superstars competition in three out of the four years he competed.
Both Arena and Rote took up the game relatively late. Arena grew up playing baseball, football and lacrosse on Long Island, while Rote initially went to college to play football.
“I’m very appreciative of the recognition," said Arena. "It’s a diverse class, for sure. Kyle Rote and I are about the same age and we grew up actually with similar backgrounds. We started in the game so late and then you have Preki and Dooley who obviously learned their trade in other countries and have come here to help build the game. So it’s really a diverse and unique class and a class I’m proud to be a part of."
The four inductees and Gardner were honored at the New Meadowlands Stadium because the Hall of Fame in Oneonta, N.Y., was closed down because of financial problems.