The New York Red Bulls, now in their 15th year of existence, have been a roller coaster of a franchise. There have been some extreme highs but also some terrible, unthinkable lows. There has been a revolving door of coaches and players, a name change, and a new stadium for the team to call its own.
Two players, more so than any others, have been through almost all of it. And after the 2010 season, they’ll be a part of the club’s history as well.
Forward John Wolyniec has retired effective immediately, and defender Mike Petke will finish out the current season before hanging up his boots.
Both are New York natives, were drafted by the club, and have spent the majority of their careers with the Red Bulls. They also both have two appearances with the U.S. National Team.
Wolyniec spent seven of his 12 MLS seasons, over three separate stints, with the New York club. He is second in franchise history in regular-season games played with 142 appearances and fifth in goals scored in all competitions with 36.
Petke is a 13-year veteran, seven of which (over two stints) have been spent with New York. He is the club’s all-time leader in regular season games played (167), games started (158), and minutes played (14,006). He was most recently voted by the fans as one of the Red Bulls All-Time Best XI. He also recently became only the 12th player in league history to play in 300 MLS games.
These two players endeared themselves to the fans for so many priceless moments on the field.
Wolyniec shined during the 2008 playoffs. In the second leg of the opening round Wolyniec scored a goal in the team’s 3-0 rout of the Houston Dynamo, and then proceeded to do the Thriller dance. He continued his scoring ways scoring in the Cup final against the Columbus Crew. That strike is the first-ever, and only, goal scored by the Red Bulls in the championship game.
Petke was forever embedded in club lore when in 2000, the then-spiky-haired, bleached-tips defender stood up for his fallen teammate.
In a game against since-folded franchise Tampa Bay, an opposing forward broke the ribs of Metrostars goalkeeper Mike Ammann by kicking him although Ammann had control of the ball. No disciplinary action was taken by the league.
In the team’s next game, Petke scored and lifted his jersey revealing a t-shirt that read “August 16: Crime of the Century” on the front and “Revenge is Coming” on the back. The league fined him, but the fans’ love for him was permanently cemented.
After a strong 2000 campaign, Petke trialed with Bundesliga side Bayern Munich and was offered a contract by FC Kaiserslautern, but elected to stay with the Metrostars, the club he has always called home, no matter who he played with.
One thing that really has been evident in both of their careers has been leadership and strong work ethics. No matter what the circumstance those two have been true professionals. Even if the season was a lost cause those two continued to work as if every game was the championship.
The fans loved Wolyniec for his ability to come off the bench, no matter how early or late in the game, and change the action. The “Staten Island Ronaldo” could score in a mere few minutes of work, but most importantly, he brought life and energy on the field when the team needed it most.
Petke returned to the Red Bulls for the 2009 season, a disastrous season resulting in a 5-19-6. However, there was Petke on the practice field every day pushing himself and his teammates, and calling them out when they weren’t performing up to par.
Rewarding these players is a must. They were both fortunate enough to finally play in Red Bull Arena, a home stadium rumored to be built for what seemed like the entirety of their careers yet finally came to fruition this season. Wolyniec will be honored before the team’s October 2 game against Kansas City.
There is still one thing that the team can do, at least for Petke, and that is to finally win the championship.
It would be the perfect ending for the perfect Red Bull.