TSG: Okay, so then Hamburg sell you to what I’ll call your “nightmare club” in Austria? Spill it on Austria.
Preston: Well, thanks. It would be good to set the record straight.
TSG: Go ahead.
Basically what happened is my agent at the time couldn’t find a club for me.
Hamburg came and spoke to me and they didn’t want me on their books, and they had a relationship with a club in Austria and they wanted to loan me out.
I knew nothing about the club. The very next day Hamburg had consummated the deal with Kapfenberger SV and they said I just had to sign some personal terms.
At the time I thought it was a good idea and a good situation. So I went there and became a starter and started for 23 or so games.
I can’t say anything bad about playing there. I had playing time and an opportunity. I played and scored against Red Bull Salzburg and did some other good things…but…
It all came to a sudden end and they wanted me to sign a contract through 2012.
I had already communicated to them that I was only there because I couldn’t find a second league club in Germany and I couldn’t find that connection.
Everyone knew that I was going there to get experience, but not to settle down.
That was the plan and it wasn’t supposed to hurt anyone’s feelings. I didn’t like the atmosphere at the club and the culture in Austria is not really what I wanted either.
They wanted me to sign a contract until 2012, and when I didn’t things went sour…fast.
Once I said no, I got benched despite starting all the games before that. And then the coach would start hollering at me after training and also trying to get me to sign the contract.
I’d keep telling him that I’m not going to agree to a contract and you’re my coach, not the management.
He chastised me in front of the team.
Matt, this story could go on for hours.
TSG: We’ll take the short or long version.
Preston: It sort of came to a head after losing against Vienna.
He benched me for the first half and then the second half I came in, but didn’t score.
He came into the locker room after and wanted me to fight him!
He even pulled some other guy’s hair who didn’t play well!
Then we have a meeting a little after midnight and he says…well, he demeans me in front of the team saying I have no respect for the team and the coach, and if that’s my attitude (about the contract) I can go find a new club.
He put his hand out and I shook it. I thought I was fired.
Preston: We then had a meeting when I came back and he blew up on me and basically wanted to fight me again!
Well, then I was 100% sure I was fired.
So I didn’t come back to training anymore, and he started threatening me through other players on the team saying if I didn’t come back to training he was going to have UEFA suspend me for six months.
By then I had a lawyer who advised me that I was fired by what happened, and that I shouldn’t say anything and not to go back.
It went on and on and it went into the media and he crucified me there.
He said I went to England on a trial. Meanwhile, I don’t even have the papers to be able to play in England!
I’d go walk places around town and people would come up to me and get in my face and ask why I was doing what I was doing.
But, bottom line: I was fired and I didn’t get any of the money owed to me.
Also, the apartment was from the club and my car too. I got everything out of my apartment because I thought they would take that.
And then I went home to Washington.
I tried to get into teams, Regensburg in Germany’s third division was interested, but no team would take me even though I had the papers that I was fired. Teams would check with Austria and they would say I broke my contract.
[At the time of publication, Kapfenberger SV had not responded to email requests for comment]
TSG: So let me interrupt and ask a question: how do you prevent a situation like that? Can it be prevented?
Preston: I’m sure it could have been prevented, but Hamburg did the deal more than my agent.
It could have been I guess, but no one was really involved more in the situation. My agent wasn’t helping me because he’s not the one that got me to Kapfenburg.
TSG: So then you had a friend at Mainz who finally quote “hooked you up?”
I don’t want to name him, but he’s in good standing with a club.
Somehow I popped up in a conversation and they were curious what happened to me after I was at Hamburg.
But with my history it was still difficult. Why claim a player with my background who might be a headache?
TSG: Wait let me go back…qualify just how difficult the Vienna situation was?
Preston: Worst time of my life, obviously.
It was hard because I had to stick by my guns and for ten months I couldn’t play while it got sorted out, plus I wasn’t making any money.
They [Kapfenburg] even tried to make Mainz pay money for me when I wasn’t even under contract anymore.
TSG: And let me remind our readers that you’re all of 20-years-old at this time.
I had to bum around Europe. I thought, “Is this what I have to go through?”
I was desperate. I went to Turkey on trial. I even thought about an offer from Azerbaijan.
I just wanted to play football.
TSG: Were you going to stay in Europe at all times or were you considering coming back to MLS?
Preston: I was staying in Europe.
A lot of people don’t understand the reason I live in Europe isn’t based exclusively on football. I love Europe and it’s not just about the football.
One of my goals in life was to learn another language and now I know German.
It’s not a bash on MLS. It’s just that I want to live here.
I decided I’m not going to give up and that team in Austria is going to know they messed up. I’m going to stay and make it.
TSG: Now you’re in a better situation?
Preston: When I first got to Hamburg I had great wages and then I had nothing, and now I’m back to where I was.
Everything has sort of gone the way it’s supposed to except that spell in Austria, I guess.
I wish it didn’t happen, but I can’t worry about that anymore.
TSG: So, to refresh, the plan is to now play out the year?
Preston: Basically I go to work in peace now.
I don’t do interviews because so often the media has got it wrong. You guys are an exception, of course.
I’ll see where it shakes out in January. I just want less chaos.
I know that I’m safe in Mainz and no one is out to get me. They want me to succeed.
TSG: Okay, let me shift topics for a second. You had that great spell in Austria. You’re now at Mainz and about to get at least a little first team action. You played striker and are an attacking player.
Has Bob Bradley or USSF reached out to you at all about playing for the national team?
Preston: You know, first, my head’s not there.
I got called in back when I was 18 to a camp in Switzerland. I didn’t make the team day roster but it was fun experience.
TSG: So you’re not ready for it?
Preston: I’m more mature now and not naive, but I’m not ready to take it on right now.
When there is a game or camp I don’t expect to be called in.
TSG: No aspirations at all? What if they called you in?
Preston: Right now, the most important thing for my life is to have an established profession for me here and get my life going in Europe. It’s my goal.
As far as what comes after that, if I get into a camp, great.
When I was playing my best though in Austria and scoring goals I thought I might get called in, but I didn’t hear anything and no one that I know of has come to watch me.
But, one of my problems is I want to do things my way and it’s important that it’s my way and sometimes it makes problems for me.
And I don’t want to get anything because I kissed anyone’s ass. I want it on merit.
And I think a lot of people will reach out and swallow their pride to try and, you know, make some stuff happen.
Maybe you have the feeling I’m a jerk or something?
TSG: You know it’s great hearing an honest opinion and our readers are going to appreciate your honest opinions in an interview setting because you could just as easily offer some canned or non-committal responses.
Preston: I run into problems with my disposition sometimes. [laughing]
I don’t dream about scoring a goal for the national team in the World Cup. I dream about winning a championship as a foreigner here in a top European League.
It’s not to say I have anything against the national team.
I don’t know how to say it in a positive way so I don’t get killed by people reading this.
It’s just where I am right now. Maybe people won’t like that answer, but…
TSG: Preston, at the risk of being advisor-ish–I don’t know if that’s even a word…
When people are honest that’s what people care about on our publication. They don’t like to hear the whole sing-song or people/players not speaking on their true feelings.
People can smell that out in a second.
We’ve done one or two interviews where I can tell the player is not being forthright and just offering canned responses. And, you know what, those are the articles that weren’t well received on our publication, and the ones afterward where I thought, “Man, unless I have to, I’m not talking to so-and-so again.”
This will read well because you’re honest.
Preston: Well, this is why I can’t give interviews because I can’t hold my tongue. [laughing]
TSG: Having an opinion, in my opinion, is much better than not having opinion. I applaud you for being frank with us.
Preston: I know exactly what I want to do and how I want to do it.
And if it means next year I’m in a weird place like the Czech Republic, then so be it, because that’s what’s right for me.
TSG: Beyond next year, in five years where do you see yourself?
Preston: Starting on a team in a first league somewhere. Doesn’t necessarily mean England or Germany.
I’ll be having fun and doing my thing and I will be established.
TSG: Married or kids?
Preston: I hope so. I don’t really have a plan on that right now.
Who knows, maybe I’m in Japan or China, but I’ll be having fun doing it.
TSG: Alright, let’s wrap it up with some lighter fare. Best player you’ve ever shared the pitch with?
Preston: Rafael Van Der Vaart, hands down.
In training he would do the most ridiculous things.
I can’t even…when I trained against him I didn’t want to kick or foul him because I had too much respect.
The first day in training when I got there he was trying so hard to nutmeg me and I was trying so hard not to let him do it and I opened my legs one time and, bam, he did it.
Also Elkin Soto who plays for Mainz first team as a center midfielder, best touch I’ve ever seen.
Same kind of thing, I have so much respect for him. If he has the ball in training and he goes by me or something I’m not going to kick him. I have too much respect for him. He can’t be injured for us, no way.
TSG: Hang out with Jared Jeffrey at all?
Preston: Yeah sure, we go out and eat and stuff. It’s good to have another American there.
TSG: Speak German when you guys are out?
Preston: C’mon. Mine’s a little better than his right now though.
TSG: Do your parents come over at all?
Preston: Yeah sure, they’ll come over on separate trips and watch two or three games at a time.
It’s great because I left home early, when I was 15, so they see me play now more than before almost.
It’s good to have someone at the games who’s actually coming to watch me.
TSG: Do you miss anything from the States?
Preston: I don’t know. There’s an Army base around here so we can get some American food and such.
But I’ve been here for five years in Europe and I’m really used to how everything is here.
Maybe Mexican food? Perhaps Chipotle?
TSG: Too funny, the thing you miss most about the States is Mexican. Ha.
Thanks for the time Preston, truly one of the more memorable, dramatic and fun interviews we’ve done at TSG.
Preston: Hey, wait, thanks. I don’t really give interviews anymore and I appreciate you reaching out and explaining your Web site.
TSG: Hey, thank you man. This was a great conversation.