Photo by ISIphotos.com
By DAN KARELL
If there’s one person on the New York Red Bulls who truly understands the magnitude of Sunday evening’s 5-2 victory against the Chicago Fire, it’s head coach Mike Petke.
Following the match, Petke and the team came together in front of the South Ward, where the most fervent of Red Bulls supporters stand and cheer game in and game out, and along with equipment manager Fernando Ruiz and his son Sean, who have been with the team since it’s inception in 1996, lifted the Supporters Shield aloft.
It was just another special moment in a season of surpassing expectations for the former Metrostars and Red Bulls defender.
“For Petke and Fernando to lift the trophy, it was a special touch,” said Tim Cahill. “I remember at the start of the season when the big name managers were touted about to bring success to this football club but this guy (Petke) is the heart and soul. He knows what it is to be a New York Red Bull.”
“For a guy that shows so much passion and for a guy that’s in his first year as a head coach, he really put him imprint on this team,” Dax McCarty said. “I think the saying is very true, you play to the image of your coach. Sometimes it hasn’t been pretty or great but at the end of the day, you know that we’re going to come and battle and we’re going to fight and be up for a scrap, and that all starts with Mike.
“It’s a joy to be able to win this for him. I know it’s been a long season for him, I can definitely see a couple more grey hairs on him.”
Though the Supporters Shield is a terrific accomplishment for the franchise, the players on the team were all unanimous that they wouldn’t be truly satisfied unless they were hoisting the MLS Cup trophy high above their heads on December 7.
And maybe with the “curse of the Caricola” gone, the Red Bulls can extend their eight-game unbeaten run going through the postseason.
“You know how much it means to (Petke), he’s that sort of character and he’s been around the place,” Lloyd Sam said. “He always talks about how long he’s been here and he hadn’t won anything. (It’s) his first year coaching, he’s won the Supporters Shield, let’s go on and win the (MLS) Cup.”