K.C.'s Preki returns on his terms

it seems like the same mantra Preki uttered last season during rehab.

"I'm feeling much better than last year. My leg has healed and now I'm just trying to regain my strength and balance on my [left] side. I know it's going to take me a little bit of time -- I'm still not at a place where I want to be. But the good thing is I still have over a month to get there, and without a doubt in my mind, I'll be ready for the season."

Even Wizards head coach Bob Gansler has remarked that the fluidity in Preki's movement has returned. Preki's return seems imminent, but what position and what role will the 2003 MLS MVP take on the field? The scrimmages have provided a glimpse.

"One game I'll play in the middle of midfield and the next on the right of midfield," said Preki, who in his prime controlled play from the center of midfield. "I'll play where I can be effective, where the team needs me -- that's the most important thing. It's not what I play, as long as I play, that's fine with me."

The last sentence likely reveals Preki's desired role once he is match fit. The past has provided instances of friction between the gifted left-footer and Gansler. And with the Wizards coming off a near double championship season, Preki's role may not be clear to observers. However, despite the Wizards not taking the option on his contract last year, Preki feels the Wizards decision makers have respected his desires.

"In a sense, they have. I understand the business part of the thing. They've given me an opportunity to play my last season and retire on my own terms -- playing at a high level and retiring by playing, not calling it quits on a bad injury," said Preki, who re-signed with the team just before camp opened.

Yet, one might wonder what impact a player could have who has essentially been out of commission since the end of the 2003 season. Preki himself could provide insight in his analysis of the entrance into MLS of 37-year-old Youri Djorkaeff with the Metrostars.

"He's a quality player who has been around for a while," Preki said. "Hopefully he will come to this league and still show some good stuff because that's what we need in this league."

Here's to betting that Preki still has some "good stuff" in him. The only question could be: when will he step on the field for real?

Preki's response was cryptic.

"I'm not really thinking about anything. If I am feeling great, we'll see what happens. Time will tell us," he said.

Robert Rusert is a contributor to This story was not subject to the approval of Majro League Soccer or its clubs.

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