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Despite early playoff exit, Petke excited about Red Bulls’ future

Mike Petke

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When New York Red Bulls head coach, Mike Petke, first learned that we would be coaching his former team, he stared at the wall and thought to himself, “Holy s—, what do I do next?”

Now, just under a year later, and with arguably the franchise’s most successful season under his belt, he seems like a completely different person.

Petke was overwhelmed many times throughout the year, but he navigated the daunting MLS schedule with success and is ready to get right back at it. Despite a rocky start to the season and a less-than-flattering exit from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference Semifinals, Petke focused on the positives and praised his team for coming together despite the circumstances and winning New York’s first piece of hardware during his end-of-the-season conference call.

“As the season progressed, these guys really jumped on board,” Petke said. “These guys bought into what we were trying to do and as the season progressed you saw definitely an improvement overall, not only in the play but in the attitude and the environment.”

The Red Bulls, both the franchise and the fanbase, suffered through almost 18 trophy-less years before winning the Supporters’ Shield in 2013. Finally filling that case with a trophy means everything to a proud organization like New York, even if it feel short of its ultimate goal.

Petke, however, refuses to rest on his laurels and is already looking forward to next season.

“That’s a great memory to have and it’s something that we’ll have in our trophy case that isn’t empty anymore, but now it’s on to the next thing,” Petke said. “We’re all committed to continuing the success next year.”

Petke and the Red Bulls will look to shore up any areas of weakness and bring in new blood at key positions. They need to decide if they want to utilize their third available Designated Player slot and find ways to bolster their squad without tinkering too much.

“We ended as the regular season champions, so, obviously the players we have are good and we did something right,” Petke said. “The players did something right. We don’t feel it’s necessary to overhaul. I think that’s one thing, in the past, that has plagued this organization at certain times, whether it’s the Red Bulls or the MetroStars. It’s not necessary.”

Petke did admit, however, that he will look to improve as a coach. Specifically, Petke wants to improve his player management; resting the right players and selecting the right lineups. Thierry Henry, the Red Bulls’ captain, is getting up there in age and there are decisions to be made about his usage going forward.

“[Henry] definitely falls into a category of somebody I need to sit down with and figure things out for all the competitions we have next year and all the travel that’s going to entail,” Petke said “This year was very tough for me to take him off the field because of what he brings.”

These are the types of decisions that Petke will need to refine if the Red Bulls hope to duplicate this season’s success and avoid suffering a setback in 2014.


  1. With CCL matches, Henry and Cahill not young anymore, extra allocation money and an open dp slot, NYRB is going to have to be very active this offseason. They could certainly use an influx of young legs.

  2. They should enjoy any success they have while they can, because once NYCFC get up and running, the RBs will fade quickly in relevance and attendance in the NY metro area. They already cannot fill their own stadium (a beauty of a stadium, by the way) and the upper bowl is no man’s land. Once a true NYC team is going full throttle, playing in one of the 5 boroughs (probably Queens), with subway lines running close by rather than having to drive out to HARRISON—the RBs will be the perennial little brothers in that region. People talk about Chivas folding or moving, but I believe we will be having the same conversation about the RBs in five years.

    • Have to disagree. For one, the Red Bulls core following is in New Jersey already anyway. Fans within the city don’t need to drive to get to Harrison, they can take the Path train, it’s as easy as taking the subway. They have had a few sellouts this season too. And I don’t know where you’ve been, but the MLS to Queens initiative has been completely dead for some time. NYCFC is focusing on the Bronx now, most likely to build near Yankee Stadium with the support of the Yankees. And it’s all but certain for the first few years they’ll be playing IN Yankee Stadium, which naturally a lot of people aren’t going to like. NYCFC is going to have a tenuous start and they certainly won’t send Red Bull the way of Chivas USA.

    • Sheikh Mansour FC is going to be playing in Yankee Stadium for a long long time and it may surprise you to learn that Harrison is actually closer to much of NYC than the south Bronx. Also, you may be shocked to learn that the PATH train stops right in front of RBA, so there’s no need for people who live in the city to drive there.

      The attendance could be better but it isn’t bad and there were several sellouts this season.

    • Why do people assume that NYCFC is automatically going to sell out Yankee Stadium (which is where they are going to play?) They still have to field a competitive team, which is not 100% given by any means. Yeah they have $$$ but you aren’t getting Ronaldos and Messis to MLS.

      The in-game experience is going to suck if NYCFC is getting 18-20K in a retrofitted 45K baseball stadium with dirt cutouts.

      • People always assume the new thing is going to dominate. In fact when Chivas USA first came on to the scene there were many people who ignorantly assumed, much like MLS marketing people, that Mexican American fans would flock there in droves and that they would be more dominant than the Galaxy. We all know how that turned out.

  3. Wow, good luck and don’t too comfortable. As long as skc stays in the east, they will up there. Not only skc but you have Toronto making a turn this year asap, then Montreal who’s owner wants more and more, then Columbus who will be a dark horse, but teams like union, dc, revolution are very hungry to win.
    Also you got expansion coming in, Orlando, nycfc and Miami have the money to steal dps from red bulls list. The east is about to go through a change once nycfc joins and expansion. Oh and when dc opens their new stadium, it will change their team face.
    Red bull needs to think with their academy players, because with nycfc and expansion east cities and hungry teams, good luck to east teams.
    As for the west, it’s going to be a predictable conference, you got Seattle, la, Vancouver, Portland, rsl .

  4. Re: resting the right players, etc. — Despite the goal that Wright-Philips scored, I think Petke outsmarted himself in the second leg by benching Luyindula and moving Cahill to midfield.

    • Maybe, although Peguy wasn’t too good in the first leg. Still, I think starting him probably was the right move. In any event, if it wasn’t for silly defensive errors, RBNY wins easily.

      • Spot on my friend, the home leg was basically RB missing numerous chances and Houston not having any. The best team lost, but that’s futbol. It’s a cruel game.

  5. Pektke has done a fantastic job guiding the Red Bulls this season. I’ve never seen New York as a team playing this well all these years. Having said that, Petke needs to find more depth in the defense to support Olave and look for someone to hopefully replace the incredible Henry who will turn 38 soon. I don’t think even Thierry Henry can maintain his awesomeness at his age!


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