By VINCE MADURI
After spending ten years serving the club in multiple capacities, as a player, assistant coach and interim coach, Mike Petke finally has his wish come true: he is head coach of the New York Red Bulls.
“I’m honored and I feel privileged to have been put in this situation that I’m in right now,” Petke said in a conference call with the media Thursday. “Obviously, all you guys know how I feel about this organization, how I always have.”
Petke spent eight years as a player for the Red Bulls/Metrostars in two separate stints, making 169 appearances as a defender. The New York native then spent two years as an assistant to Hans Backe before being named interim head coach in November following Backe’s dismissal. Through Petke’s decade of service, he has forged a reputation of conducting himself very professionally, taking pride in the way he represents the Red Bull organization.
“Mike had been on the radar and part of the selection process since, I would say, after the first few weeks,” sporting director Andy Roxburgh said. “He’s charismatic, he’s well organized and he gets the respect of the players. What’s very important in all of this is that Mike is very experienced in terms of the MLS. If you brought a coach in from Europe, he might be experienced in Europe, but he would be totally inexperienced here in the US. Mike starts with an enormous advantage because he knows everybody, he knows the league and he’s absolutely passionate about the club.”
The Red Bulls drawn out search for a new head coach has been well documented in the media between rumored courtships of former Scottish international Gary McAllister and former Portuguese international Paulo Sousa, with sources telling SBI that Sousa had accepted the position before ultimately backing away from the job. Roxburgh wouldn’t address claims that the job was turned down by other candidates, and would only say that the club took their time on purpose and the Red Bulls had indeed inquired about other possibilities before deciding on Mike Petke.
“We had to try to assess all options and we had spoken with a number of people,” Roxburgh said. ” We had inquired about the possibilities of some others. But whether people were appropriate, whether they were available, all the various things [didn't work out].
“Right from day one, we actually thought we would like to have a young, hungry coach who could be adaptable and who could relate to this [league and club]. And right away, Mike checked all those boxes but I think it was appropriate for us to go through all of the process.”
Mike Petke wouldn’t tip his hand at specific tactics or formations but did say that the team would take on his personality as a player.
“One thing we will do is fight from the first whistle to the last whistle,” Petke said. “The other thing we will do is fight for each other. Not just the players on the field but the players on the bench and the organization as well, to represent them the way that I’ve always represented them and it’s going to trickle down to these players. We are going to be what I hope to be an entertaining form of soccer. But at the end of the day, we’re going to leave everything out on the field.”
“Now does that translate to success on the field? We’re going to find that out,” Petke said. “These guys are hungry. They’re willing to get behind me and it’s going to be a good ride.”