It’s unlikely that Mike Petke is the leading candidate for the New York Red Bulls head coaching position.
It’s not impossible; he was just named interim head coach with the team not renewing Hans Backe’s contract. But history tells us the organization will go with the bigger, flashier, more expensive name, both with players and the coaching staff.
But maybe Petke, a legend to the Red Bull/MetroStars faithful, might not be a bad choice after all.
The trend in Major League Soccer is to hire former, recently retired players as new head coaches. Jason Kreis, Ben Olsen, Jay Heaps and Robin Fraser have all been hired as head coaches in the league since Kreis’ appointment at Real Salt Lake in 2007.
Olsen has brought D.C. United to the semifinals in his second full season as coach, and Kreis has won an MLS Cup championship.
The New England Revolution ownership was heavily criticized for the Heaps hire, mainly because of his lack of coaching experience.
Petke, however, just finished his second season as one of the team’s assistant coaches, both seasons where the team made the playoffs.
Petke is also an MLS veteran. He knows the league, understands the subtleties that are necessary to be successful in this league.
Once again, history shows that foreign coaches have difficulty adjusting from European leagues to MLS. It could be time for the Red Bulls to go back to an MLS-savvy coach who understands how the team must work around the salary cap and how important the draft is to build a team with plenty of depth, two things Backe did not do very well with.
Finally, it’s hard to imagine that there is any person out there who is more passionate about the club and cares more about its success than Petke.
He is a New York native. He played for the team in seven of his 14 seasons in the league. He was drafted by the club. He retired as a member of the franchise. He is active in the community and in connecting with the fans.
In fact, his fan-friendly approach would be a welcome change of pace for the organization whose season-ticket holders can be heard griping about the lack of interest ownership shows in them outside of their payment for seats.
The fact that the team has kept him on staff while letting go of both Backe and head assistant Jan Halvor Halvorsen implies that the team has some faith in Petke’s abilities as a coach.
It might be worth a shot to let him see what he can do on a permanent basis.