Blast's Ronson confident his spat with Preki is over

October 26, 1990|By Sandra McKee | Sandra McKee,Evening Sun Staff

If your name was Predrag Radosavljevic, you'd want to be called Preki, too.

That's certainly more flattering than what the Blast's Billy Ronson was calling Preki after the St. Louis Storm midfielder allegedly spat on Ronson during a preseason game two weeks ago in Springfield, Mass.

"I was punched by [Cleveland goalkeeper] P.J. Johns last season and that's OK," said Ronson. "It's not part of the game, but it's OK.

"But when a guy spits on me, like Preki did in Springfield, well, that's the worst thing a guy can ever do."

Preki pleaded innocence. But Ronson didn't buy it. One witness, who was near the two on the field during the incident and asked not to be named, described the encounter this way:

"Billy just looked him in the eyes and told him if he did it again, he'd break both his legs and he'd never play the game again."

Ronson denies he made such a threat, but admits he did let Preki know exactly how he felt.

"He won't do it again," Ronson said, emphatically. "Let's just leave it at that."

Ronson will see Preki for the first time since the incident tomorrow night when the Storm visits the Arena for the Blast's home opener. Tonight, the Blast plays the Comets in Kansas City, while St. Louis stays home to play San Diego.

"Preki, as a player, is absolutely outstanding," Ronson acknowledged. "He has skill, vision and can turn people inside out . . . But as a person, well, he demonstrates the difference between class and no class."

Certainly management in Tacoma wondered about Preki's class.

After five years with the team, he was a recognized star in the Major Soccer League and in the community. He is married to a Tacoma native. And Tacoma offered him the maximum $72,000 contract allowed under the new collective bargaining agreement.

However, the 27-year-old All-Star slam dunked everyone when he accepted an offer from St. Louis and followed up his decision by reportedly saying, "There are ways around a salary cap."

Preki says he meant only that he is longtime friends with Storm coach Don Popovic and that Popovic can help him in the offseason to find an outdoor team in Europe.

"I needed a change," said Preki, who was the league's third-leading scorer last season with 33 goals and 39 assists. "My career was going nowhere in Tacoma. There wasn't any more room to grow there. I want to prove myself and win a championship. In Tacoma, that dream never came true. I hope it will in St. Louis."

A subsequent investigation and hearing by MSL commissioner Earl Foreman turned up no improprieties. But Preki still is not saying anything to placate Tacoma.

"The St. Louis team is more professional," he said. "Here I listen to the coach and what he has to say. I have a lot of respect for Pops. With the New York Arrows, he won four championships. I read about it, as a teen-ager in Yugoslavia."

Preki is a native of Belgrade and started playing outdoor soccer when he was 3. Playing indoors came later, but to Preki soccer is soccer.

"I do not care if it is outdoors or indoors, so long as I am playing," he said.

Preki also said he hopes to become an American citizen in the next several years and be eligible for the U.S. National Team and World Cup competition in 1994.

* Preki was named the MSL's Offensive Player of the Week for his four-goal performance last weekend against Cleveland. Tacoma defender Joey Waters was named Defensive Player of the Week for his seven blocked shots and one-goal performance last weekend. Waters, who had five of those blocks and the game-winning goal in Kansas City last Sunday, is only the fourth player in league history to total 600 career blocks.

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