Preki a Calming Presence for Saint Louis FC
Saint Louis FC’s new gaffer, Preki, has a reputation that precedes him. An aspect of that reputation is one of talent and determination as a player--two MLS MVP awards, one of which was earned at the age of 40. Another is his international experience--one of his four international goals for the U.S. won the game against Brazil in the 1998 Gold Cup.
Or perhaps it’s his reputation as a winning coach. 85-62-45 on the MLS and USL levels. After disappearing from coaching in Sacramento Republic in 2015 Preki inspired the hashtag #whereispreki due to the shock of him not heading a team for a lengthy season and a half.
Or perhaps, in addition to this, you’ve heard about the intense Preki of training sessions. Yes, I and many other attendees of St. Louis FC training sessions can attest to the fact that Preki ceases his yelling only to refresh the depleting oxygen in his lungs.
All of these aspects of his reputation are indeed true, but it was after I sat down with now third year Assistant Coach Tim Leonard, as well as Preki himself, that a different perspective formed.
The next episode of our podcast will feature the aforementioned interviews in which Assistant Coach Leonard gives a few golden quotes: “Nothing really rattles Preki. He’s an emotional guy, don’t get me wrong, but nothing really rattles him on the soccer field that he hasn’t seen before [...] Very intense in his training sessions, very intense in his film sessions, very demanding, but at the same time very calm. Very relaxed, like I said, been there done that.”
Tim also contrasted that thought with the past two years and his experience under the previous coach, Dale Schilly. “We were under a lot of pressure, let’s just be blunt with it. Dale felt the pressure, he knew the pressure was there. You can’t hide from that [...] so, what (Preki) brings is stability, a little confidence, a little more, “OK, this is gonna be OK--trust me guys, the highs and lows of this week? don’t worry about them [...] we’ll be OK.””
Tim’s comments were actually confirming some suspicions I had been developing throughout preseason in Florida. While Preki is intense during sessions, he’s practically stoic on the bench. Sure, there are shouted player instructions from time to time--strong, standing bursts of pressure at the ref when he feels he’s being cheated, but for the most part Preki is seated, calm, and reserved during games.
Suspicions were turned to fact when I got my opportunity to sit down with Preki himself. Preki in an interview is not impassioned. He does not embellish. He answers questions in the most efficient form possible. He really gave me a first hand example of his coolness via experience and wisdom when I questioned the team’s depth in the forward positions. He said dismissively (almost disinterested), “We’ll see, we’re trying different things [..] we’re looking at players in different positions so, just the normal process. We’re still a month away from our season, so we’re not budging. We’re OK.”
Got it, Coach. Got it. -PG