After enduring a six-month rehabilitation from a dislocation and fracture of his left ankle and fibula in preseason, and then returning to the lineup, the Kansas City Wizards have said Preki will again undergo surgery to repair his left ankle.
"The gap in my ankle is a little bit wider than it is supposed to be, and it's causing me tremendous pain. I tried to play on it, but, obviously, I don't really want to play unless I'm 100 percent. And that's not the case," said the reigning MLS Most Valuable Player.
Thus, Preki's return to the Wizards lineup in 2004 ends after only three appearances, which included a start in Columbus on Aug. 18.
There is some sentiment this latest injury could spell an end to the 41-year-old Preki's 21-year professional soccer career that has taken the skilled midfielder from Red Star Belgrade to the U.S. indoor scene to Everton of the English Premier League and back to the U.S., where he has a claim as perhaps Major League Soccer's best player of all time.
"I have not thought about anything in the future at all. I've got to get my leg healthy and see where that takes me," Preki said.
Deciding to step away from a chance to participate in what could be a storybook season for his club must have been difficult, but Preki does not plan on walking fully away from a team that has positioned itself for a trio of titles -- the 2004 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the MLS Supporters' Shield, and the 2004 MLS Cup.
"I'll be around the team, of course. I don't know if I'm going to be on the bench with a cast on my leg, but I'll certainly be at the games," he said.
Preki believes his team can do whatever they endeavor to do, even without All-Star midfielder Chris Klein (out for the season with an ACL injury) and himself juicing up the offense.
"Anything is possible -- why not?" Preki said. "If they play to their capabilities, I don't see why not. Obviously it's going to be a tough battle. Everybody in our group is pretty good. The boys are going to have to dig deep, fight hard, be sharp. Hopefully, that will be enough. I think it's going to be very interesting to see what happens in the end."
Preki's contract has one more year on it with the Wizards holding the option for 2005. The Wizards may decide to exercise that option, or they might leave Preki unprotected in the expansion draft. Understandably, for Preki conjecture is not the issue. However, he did leave the door open to a number of future possibilities.
"The main thing for me is to get healthy. And then if I'm healthy, I know I can still play -- that's not a question," Preki said. "We'll see what happens after the season. I'll be pushing pretty hard."
Robert Rusert is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.