Petke Shining in Rookie Season

Why Petke has shown to be the answer for a club with bad history
by Daniel Feuerstein   |   Friday, October 11, 2013

Branded Bulls – column on Red Bull NY (RBNY – NYRB) & the New Jersey area soccer scene.

When this club ended the Hans Backe era at the end of the 2012 MLS season, they were looking for another coach with European ties. They wanted to make this club play attractive football.

But when no one wanted the job due to offers being too low or never got their travel papers in order to arrive, it looked like they might have to stay with a guy who not only is a local, but used to play for the club and was given the interim tag.

But it was sporting director Andy Roxberg who made the bold decision to remove that interim tag and give the reigns to Mike Petke as he was the 2nd assistant to Backe for the last 2 years and jumped at the chance to go full time.

True passion

Let me say that I can bear witness to this as I have sat in the stands during the MLS season as well as in the press box in Giants Stadium and Red Bull Arena. Petke does bleed for this club when he was a central defender and now as a head coach.

As fiery of a guy he was on the field, he has done that inside his technical area. Nothing is fake or pretend when he is trying to manage his players on the field, and that’s why Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill have shown their respect to him – because Petke is authentic.

While he has learned throughout the season that he needs to calm down a bit and keep his cool, the replays of Petke’s emotions in some of these come from behind wins or late equalizing moments has been fantastic.

Taking blame

When the results have gone their way, Petke stands at the podium inside the interview room at Red Bull Arena, or talking to Madison Square Garden Network during post game shows, and praises the players for their hard work and how they have come together.

But when things didn’t go their way, he stands in front of the camera and tells the fans that it’s his fault and he will fix the problem immediately. There have been those types of games where he felt embarrassed for the supporters when the gameplan didn’t work.

There have been more positives than negatives, except for losing to sides that are on the lower end of the Eastern and Western Conference standings like Chivas USA or the Columbus Crew.

While having a few 3-game losing or winless streaks, Petke has led the club to an 8-game unbeaten streak as well as a 4-game winning streak

Training ground fight

It has to be said that this could be the most defining moment in the rookie coaching career of Petke, when he went toe-to-toe with one of the greatest strikers in the world.

After a humiliating loss at Chivas USA on Sunday, Aug. 25, the flight back to Red Bull Arena wasn’t a good one. Probably it was the lowest point of the Red Bulls season. But at the training ground in Hanover, N.J., and the media viewing the session, something happened and it looked ugly.

Petke and Henry went into a verbal argument and it got very heated, so heated that both men had to be separated. When cooler heads prevailed, both men had a conversation and it ended in a positive note.

While Henry did start on the bench against DC United on Saturday, Aug. 31, he was able to enter the game in the 2nd half and helped out on defense with a 2-1 win.

From that point the club continued on a 6-game unbeaten streak and everyone around the league has shown Petke a lot of respect for the brash decision he has made. At the same time it looks like the players are united within themselves more than ever.

The reward for Petke’s hard work is his 1st berth into the 2013 MLS Cup playoffs. And while there are still 2 games left and certain results going New York’s way, the Supporters’ Shield could be the next title on his list. 


Ramapo College
Club Domestic:
Red Bull NY
Club Foreign:
PSG, ManU, Maccabbi Haifa
Original New York Cosmos fan, reborn soccer fan since 1994 USA World Cup. Feuerstein’s Fire podcast host. Covers NY Red Bulls for SN, and promotes all levels of American soccer from both sides of issues.