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Petke hints at major offseason changes for Red Bulls

Mike Petke New York Red Bulls 22

Photo by Adam Hunger/USA TODAY Sports


FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — A dejected Mike Petke did not want to divulge details, but his message was clear.

Major changes are likely coming to the New York Red Bulls this offseason.

The Red Bulls saw their season ended on Sunday despite putting forth a valiant effort in a 2-2 draw away to the New England Revolution. The result was not enough to overturn the 2-1 deficit New York faced after losing the first leg of the Eastern Conference Finals, and the club is now headed into a winter of uncertainty with a veteran-laden roster.

From the statuses of Designated Players Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill to which players will be left exposed in the upcoming Expansion Draft, there is no shortage of questions as to who will stay and go ahead of the 2015 season. Petke added further fuel to that fire following his Red Bulls’ postseason elimination, hinting at a large offseason overhaul being in the works.

“I’m not ready to completely talk about it,” said Petke. “I have bosses that I have to answer to, and we’re not ready to roll out our game plan for the future. It’s kind of a lot to look at, but I think that this (group of players) was a four-year project. Thierry’s contract status, not to say he’s not coming back or anything, but his current contract was a four-year project.

“We have some guys on the team getting on in years. Whatever our plan going forward is going to be what’s best for the organization, what’s best for the club, and everybody will be on board.”

Petke may not have disclosed much in the way of specifics, but earlier this season he talked about going younger and constructing a team through both the transfer window and many MLS mechanisms. The Red Bulls have relied heavily on signing foreign exports over the last four years, and been roundly criticized for not putting too much stock in things like the MLS SuperDraft.

That approach could be a thing of the past if Petke has his way.

“If it was up to me right now, I’d be planning for the future and I’d be saying, ‘You know what? Let’s take our lumps perhaps for a year or two and build something,'” said Petke back in October. “That’s the way that I feel in this league you could win, and you could sustain that, is by going to youth. But you have to pick the right youth and you can’t just have a full squad of 18 to 20 year-olds.

“You have to have a bit of flair in there of an older, experienced player. The way for this club going forward is perhaps, yes, whether it be college draft, whether it be our academy, whether it be just young kids through our scouting department.”

If this New York team has run its course and the core is broken up, the final results were mixed. The club made the playoffs in each of the past four seasons, but never made it to the MLS Cup Final. The Red Bulls did, however, win their first significant piece of hardware via the Supporters’ Shield in 2013 and killed off several long-standing hexes on their way to making their deepest postseason run since 2008 this year.

They also established an identity under Petke, who took over prior to the 2013 season and instilled the type of never-say-die mentality that New York had lacked under previous manager Hans Backe.

“We were able to not only get into the playoffs but scrap through it. I use that word scrap specifically because one thing that’s described this team over the years is they have that fighting spirit,” said goalkeeper Luis Robles on Saturday. “I think everyone agrees, whoever watched the game today, that spirit was there. Regardless of what (the front office members) do, I think if they can continue to build off of that theme, I think the organization is headed in the right direction. There’s a lot of optimism on the horizon.”

Just which older players could be on the move remains unknown, but it is clear New York need to make changes in order to free up cap space. The club was restricted by a tight salary cap situation for almost all of 2014, forced to look for bargain depth options instead of potential impact players.

A big overhaul could help alleviate that financial stress, but major reconstruction could also lead to subpar results on the field, at least in the short term. Petke sounded plenty willing to accept that, so long as he is able to usher in a new era for the Red Bulls.

“I don’t think I’m ready to talk about that right now, but we have a very good plan for the future, and it is going to take understanding from our fan base, understanding from the media perhaps,” said Petke. “We want to build something, I want to build something, and I think that we have a good idea of how to do that.”


  1. Red Bull ownership is looking to sell. Plain and simple. They bought the team at a low fee and can sell much higher to another owner. All the pieces are in place: stadium, club, biggest market in the world. Red Bull is typical of most European owners, clueless on how to market in the U.S. in an emerging sport. I see some tech company mogul buying the team and rebranding it. 1 or 2 DPs are great but I like what SKC and Real Salt Lake have done – youth built around experience. Maybe this is what Petke is alluding to. A David Villa and Frank Lampard won’t do as well for NYCFC as a team of 11 that play as a force. Just look at the Revs, they have that system down pat. If Petke can build that, then I support him.

  2. Four and one half years with the best player in the league, and one year of (partial) playoff success. That is the story of the club’s management under this ownership. If they don’t step up big time, with a serious and well thought-out plan, they risk losing much of the good will of the past two years. The bosses to whom Petke refers have to speak out, directly to the fans. People are impatient and mistrustful right now. This year’s ending, marked by all-too-familiar lapses on defense, will leave a bad taste in the mouths of all supporters.

  3. I see no problem with the SKC or Real Salt Lake approach to winning in MLS. If they can keep BWP add a few league two or league one players and a few central/south american standouts, they might actually be good with no DP players or low salary DPs. Find out whoever is the leading assist person in say the costa rican domestic league and acquire that person on a 200k a year salary. Find out who is sitting on the bench for santos/flumenese/cornithians, et al that wants to do a loan deal and is nice, acquire that person(the sarvas and junihnos of the world are pretty good in MLS). Find clubs that are willing to form a partnership with Redbulls in EPL, La Liga, or Bundesliga, and act a a feeder club taking 18-21 year olds on year long loans for cheap so the players can get minutes in MLS. Draft well and use your academy to develop players. Done. Players like Cahill never really did anything for me to be honest, I would rather have ten BWP’s and roy miller types.

  4. Red Bulls has made the playoffs the last four years. They won the Supporter’s Shield last year, hosted a sold out electric MLS Cup semi-final, and were a goal away from the MLS Cup finals this year. Do Red Bulls really want to risk all of that positive momentum by wholesale changing their approach at the exact moment NYCFC and its superstars enter the league and Red Bulls best-ever player (likely) retires? If Henry and Cahill do leave, Red Bulls will have over 8 million in salary off the books and all 3 DP slots available. The last thing a suspicious fan base (rightfully or wrongfully) wants to hear is that ownership is intentionally refusing to invest in the players necessary to compete for a few years– just as David Villa and current highlight machine Frank Lampard are entering the league a few neighborhoods over. Red Bulls already have location and lack-of-media attention issues, neither of which is going to get better putting out a low-profile team. The fact is that Red Bulls are building something. The question is whether they are going to squander that by changing direction.

  5. I see this differently. I think the roster will lose some players. Henry I believe is out. He will go back to Arsenal with a substitute role and retire a gunner. I honestly think that Cahill will stay. Henry has shown that with quality service BWP can produce a ton of goals, even if he is missing a 2/3 of the chances created for him. There are rumblings that Red Bull wants out, but I don’t think this will be the case. Red Bull has a team in one of the biggest cities in the world. Yes, they have Salzburg and yes they want to push Leipzig into the Bundesliga. What they have in Red Bull New York is a club in a world renown cities that can draw massive names and players. Players that mean their brand is seen. No one is flocking to Salzburg or Leipzig to play that will have the same impact as the names going to NY. With New York City FC coming their brand and club will have even more exposure. The games between the two clubs will be covered around the world in some aspect because of the names involved. Meaning their brand will be seen. The league is growing and growing and it is unlikely they will get out now while still fielding teams in Brazil and Ghana. I think Red Bull has no option but to get big names. They will invest in big name playmakers to feed BWP. Twellman is already reporting that the new CBA will have more DPs and the New York market you have to have stars.

  6. I’m not a Red Bulls fan, but I have really enjoyed watching them the last couple years. I find Petke to be one of the most enjoyable coaches in the league and as far as I can see, he’s done a great job. I really don’t see where the negativity of a few fans comes from. If he has a plan for the transition, i think he’s earned a couple year’s patience to enact it.

  7. All this seems to lead to at least two questions: does relying on designated players make sense (if your goal is to win soccer games consistently)? and what best prepares someone to be a successful coach? (Petke was a decent, but not great player, yet he seems to be a more than adequate coach).

  8. Only new York fans could complain with one of the best coaches a world class stadium and a conference championship game all coming after supporters shield last year which is how virtually all leagues in the world define champions

  9. I’ve been a Metro fan since 1996, and this year – even more so than last year – I think they really elevated the club, and in turn helped elevate the league. At times, especially over the last two months, they played really attractive soccer. I think Ben Olsen summed it up after their first leg vs DC in NY, that it was a “serious” football game. When I’ve watched them play recently I’ve seen a combination of heart and technique. They still can make some bonehead plays and turn off in defence – that is their identity and the reason why they just crashed out – but they can also apply sustained team pressure on an opponent, which is why these past games have been entertaining to watch. Why that is might come down to a number of factors (maybe number 1 being that Petke and Henry finally respect each other, and number 2 Dax McCarty), but it really feels like a team now. They were never 15 players deep before, to me, never a serious squad.

    Looking forward to those next moves, and growing the club, whatever its name is.

  10. I have a hint for petke, leave. Yep, full of excuses. Had all the talent in the world and couldn’t get the result. Time to go! He was no better than Backe. And the end of the day the team doesn’t need an overhaul it needs a midfielder that creates and a defense that doesn’t leak. Then again this is the problem every year! yet every year! we hear the same nonsense about what a team needs from people that don’t win and don’t get close to winning. Petke is going to say we need to get young but does he play young players? The fact is that red bulls can’t attract players with low salaries and low prospects of winning and can’t attract dps if championship teams aren’t assembled. Moreover many will not play for petke. And this is the real story! The media was real with Backe but is not the same with petke! Ask questions! Demand more! I don’t see any other coach in NY go unchecked like petke. Any other sport and this guy is gone!!!

    • Ridiculous. This was a deeply flawed team and Mike did well to get as far as he did. Zero depth, no third DP, a bunch of scrubs as defenders (other than Olave and Miller). Even Cahill is a poor fit. Does Mike play young players? What about Duvall and Oyongo? Better question: does this team have many young players? Nope. Mike doesn’t sign the players – ownership is to blame.

    • Wow, that’s depressing. Why I am bothering to go to a regular season game in the middle of May? What a waste. It’s already too watered down – now they’re going to have a higher percentage of teams in the playoffs than the NBA and NHL?

  11. What this sounds like to me is an admission that NYRB are not going to be spending a ton of money in the future.

    It’s pretty much an open secret that Red Bull – the corporation – is distancing itself from NYRB, probably in preparation for future sale. Best guess is they clear out Cahill and Henry and go young, grow a young base, and, when they get the right offer, sell (and probably rebrand) in the next year or two.

    RIP, New York Red Bulls. See ya in the next life.

  12. Poor red bull fans. Even a trophy wouldn’t make justice. Just rebrand and get DPs for once, dont tell me youre gonna be an academy team.


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