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My Two Cents

My Two Cents

November 30, 2014
MY TWO CENTS
Passionate Petke has made mistakes, but is right man to lead Red Bulls to first MLS title


Mike Petke with the 2013 Supporters Shield.
Mike Petke with the 2013 Supporters Shield.
Keith Furman/First Row Photos
By Matt Levine
BigAppleSoccer.com Writer

FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – The Red Bulls season was over. The New England Revolution was celebrating its Eastern Conference final 4-3 aggregate victory.

Inside the tunnel, head coach Mike Petke walked out of the locker room, past the gathered media. It was a walk of heartbreak. A coach seeing the club suffer one too many failures needed to gather his thoughts.

Even when he came back to offer his postgame comments, the strain was audible in his voice. Tears were welled up in his eyes and it was difficult to get the words out, one time pausing to say he lost his train of thought.

Certainly always emotional, it’s the way Petke bleeds MetroStars/Red Bulls that makes him the right man to keep guiding the club as it seeks its first ever MLS Cup final win.

Now in his second complete year as a head coach, he still has his shortcomings.

Petke’s substitutions and when they occur are still reminiscent of Hans Backe’s tenure in Harrison. Also, Petke has shown a tactical naivety at times, somewhat masked by the behind the scenes work by assistant coach Robin Fraser.

The miscommunication of Bradley Wright-Phillips not knowing about his yellow card situation will still loom as the Red Bulls fell a goal short of heading out west to play for a title.

However, there is still time for the former defender, who is still for all intents and purposes, learning on the job.

Time is what he wants.

“I want to build something,” he said when discussing the Red Bulls future. He also asked for understanding from fans in what appears to be a reshuffling of the decks and very likely a rebuilding year at Red Bull Arena.

Time is exactly what he should get.

In his two seasons, Petke has had tremendous success. In his first season, the trophy cabinet finally had a piece of silverware to fill with the club lifting the Supporters’ Shield.

While the regular season form lagged in his sophomore season, the club still took a Revolution side boasting Jermaine Jones and Most Valuable Player candidate Lee Nguyen to the final moments of reaching a final in two thrilling legs.

Going back to his passion, it certainly has rubbed off on his charges. As a player to see how much your coach cares and it’s so visceral, it’s hard for the players to not reciprocate that on the pitch.

Never a flashy player, Petke was the type to roll up his sleeves and put in a shift. He's shown that again as a coach in a training session scuffle, which led to the benching of Thierry Henry and certainly of respect in the locker room in his first year as a head coach.

That’s the same spirit the Red Bulls have embodied over the past two seasons. While at times it hasn’t been pretty, the grinder of a player has seen his team grind out results, even if they’ve still fallen just short of the ultimate prize.

That type of character will need to be on display moving forward, especially if Henry and Tim Cahill, who is still under contract, don’t return for the 2015 Major League Soccer season. And those are not the only question marks.

There are other aging players currently on the roster and the “I want to build something,” could certainly see a younger, more blue-collar side, which comes with its own growing pains. The MLS goal-scoring record-tying Bradley Wright-Phillips could potentially be the Red Bulls lone star next season and quite honestly the most blue collar of them all in the league.

While Petke isn’t perfect, he is just the man the Red Bulls need to get them over the hump. He certainly has come closer to most and has done it in a short span of time.

If he can build the squad with the right additions, if he can build on his early success and he is afforded the time to build, the trophies the club seek could very well come.
"The opinions reflected in the My Two Cents columns do not express the views of the editors or management of BigAppleSoccer. com"
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