Petke Working Well After 10 Games

Manager Mike Petke has proven to be exactly who the Red Bulls need
by Daniel Feuerstein   |   Thursday, May 02, 2013

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

After 3 years of the Hans Backe/Eric Soler regime, the New York Red Bulls were ready to move on and find a suitable coach to make the club go forward into 2013 with a chance as always to win an MLS Cup or a US Open Cup.

Gerard Houllier, RBNY’s sporting director of global soccer, looked to Europe for a new manager. He ignored – at least for the time being – the man who would be tagged as an interim coach.

With no one stepping up or coming over due to logistical issues, Andy Roxburg, sporting director for the New York side of things, made the bold move to appoint Mike Petke as manager.

And if you think about it, he has stuck to his game plan from the start, being an attack-minded coach.

The losses in San Jose and Chicago, and the draw in Portland, to start the season were more because of mental errors than tactical issues. Whether it was not having a concentrated goalkeeper or Roy Miller intentionally encroaching in the area during a Earthquakes penalty, mental mistakes plagued the Red Bulls.

The Miller situation has improved since his incident at San Jose. Petke allowed him to join Costa Rica for the World Cup Qualifier. Not only did Petke not use him in 4 matches afterwards, he sat down with Miller and explained he needed to get his act together. And since the road win at DC United, Miller has been solid at leftback in these last 4 games.

The big problem many thought at the start of this season would be the big egos of Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill, and whether or not they would take advantage of a rookie manager.

Petke was asked time after time, podcast after podcast, about how he was going to handle 2 world class players who have played at established clubs in England and Spain. The answer was simple: They have already earned his trust because they know who he is.

They didn’t know him just as an assistant coach, but a former player who is from the area and who has a true love for the club. Sometimes that’s all that needs to happen. We all know how much Henry loves Arsenal and went on that loan spell back at Highbury. We all saw his magical celebration after scoring against Leeds United in an FA Cup match at the Emirates. That same passion is within Petke for this club, and to be honest it looks like Henry has an extra step to his stride since Petke’s takeover.

At the beginning of the season, Petke tried to change things up with an attacking game plan and used a 4-3-1-2. But recently he informed the New York media that it hasn’t been working and decided to go back to a 4-4-2. He felt it was a better fit with the players that he has. And as we can see, he is not afraid to make changes when something doesn’t go well.

But the most important thing that Petke has going for him is his assistant coach Robin Fraser. The one-time manager of Chivas USA has been a big help to Petke as they exchange ideas with each other. It helps, too, that Fraser isn’t from the Backe regime.

As nice as Jan Halvor Halvorsen and Backe were to the media, you can definitely say what they tried to do just didn’t work. And the players from last year, along with the new players on the roster, have done very well and currently are in second place in the Eastern Conference.

Even though there are still plenty of matches left in the season, along with a 2 week break in the month of June and a US Open Cup campaign about to start, Petke has looked good as a manager to start the season.

His taste in sweaters is not bad either.

NEXT UP: May 4 – Columbus Crew vs. New York Red Bulls, Crew Stadium, Columbus, Ohio, 4 p.m., NBC Sports.


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.