Editor's Note: As part of Major League’s Soccer’s 25th season celebration, over the coming weeks MLSsoccer.com will be featuring an interview with a player who made a lasting impact on the league and helped make MLS the force it is today. Check back every Monday for a new installment of MLS Legends.
When discussing the greatest attacking players to ever grace the field in MLS, Preki’s name has to be near the top of the list.
The man is an undisputed legend, not only in MLS, but also on the indoor circuit, where he put up some truly eye-popping goal-scoring numbers (just check his Wikipedia page). He was also inducted to the National Soccer Hall of Fame in 2010.
Preki boasts one of the most fascinating careers you’ll ever find, and is probably the only player you’ll ever come across who competed for both the Tacoma Stars and Everton. He did it for what seemed like forever, too, playing his final competitive match as a 42-year-old after playing in MLS with the Kansas City Wizards and Miami Fusion. MLS fans perhaps best remember him for his famous “Preki Chop” – a move that he used to devastating effect.
These days, Preki is part of the Seattle Sounders’ coaching staff under Brian Schmetzer, where his main job is mentoring and coaching the team’s attackers. He joined MLSsoccer.com for this Q&A on memories from his playing days and his perspective on where the league currently stands.
MLSsoccer.com: Preki, thanks for taking the time to talk today. First of all, where are you hunkering down during this quarantine and how are you and your family doing?
Preki: I live in Gig Harbor, a little bit away from Seattle. We’re doing OK. My family’s here, doing everything possible to keep ourselves busy, doing a little work, keeping in touch with the game and keeping in touch with our players. I hope all this madness will be over soon.
MLSsoccer.com: Agreed. Alright, well let’s get into it: The first thing we wanted to ask you about is the “Preki Chop” which was known as your signature move. Was that one that was always part of your arsenal or did you find that it was especially effective when you joined MLS?
Preki: Honestly, a lot of players have that move. I don’t know why it’s labeled like my signature move. I never worked on it, that’s an instinct move. It obviously works best for players that can shoot, that have the ability to score goals from distance and from closer to the goal. Everybody knows if you’re going to shoot, and if you’re good at it they have to close you down and try to block the shot. A lot of the time it’s instinct. If I sense the defender is overcommitted, of course, I [would use the move] and fortunately I could shoot the ball with both feet. That’s why the move worked.
MLSsoccer.com: When did you first decide that you wanted to play in MLS and how do you reflect upon that time?
Preki: In ’96. I was already 33 years old, and I had the opportunity to come back to the States and play and at the same time I had the opportunity to play for the [US men's] national team. I took that chance and came over here and never regretted it. It was a good decision for me and my family.
MLSsoccer.com: If you had to pick a favorite memory from your time in the league, what would it be?
Preki: My favorite moment was the 2000 MLS Cup [with the Wizards], where we won it. That was a special moment sharing that with my teammates, with the whole organization and with Kansas City.
MLSsoccer.com: You’ve been around the league for a long time now. What are the biggest differences you’ve noticed from when you first joined the league as a player, to now as a coach?
Preki: Oh, there are dozens. Obviously the facilities that we have now, but probably the biggest is the fan support – the fan bases are huge. Those are the biggest differences from when we first started to now in my opinion.
MLSsoccer.com: Who are your favorite players in the league today to watch?
Preki: On the Sounders, obviously I like to watch Nico [Lodeiro] and Raul Ruidiaz. I also like to watch Carlos Vela, he’s different than a lot of other players. I like Josef Martinez. All the top players in the league, I enjoy watching them all.
MLSsoccer.com: Can’t argue with any of those choices. If you had to pick a coach you had during your time in the league that you particularly liked playing for, who would you pick?
Preki: Let’s see, how many coaches did I have? [laughs] I’d say Ray Hudson. I really enjoyed playing for Ray Hudson.
Preki: Obviously, the [Kansas City] team we had that won the championship was great, but yes I’d say also the team that we had in Miami, the following year when I moved to Miami. I thought we had a really, really, really good team.
MLSsoccer.com: Last one: You’re the only player in MLS history to win MVP two times (1997, 2003). Is that surprising to you at all that’s held up as long as it has?
Preki: Yeah, I’m surprised. It’s a great achievement, but at the same time there’s no way I could have achieved any of that without my coaching staff and the teammates I played with. A lot of the credit has to go to them as well. But like I said, it’s a nice achievement, but I’m sure at some point it’ll be broken and someone else will run away with it. And that’s exciting because this league has a lot of good players and it wouldn’t surprise me if that happens sooner rather than later.