2012 in Review: Q&A with New York coach Mike Petke
MLSsoccer.com continues to take a look back at the 2012 season that was for all 19 clubs in Major League Soccer, starting with Toronto FC and ending with the Supporters' Shield-winning San Jose Earthquakes. You can find the schedule and comprehensive reviews for each team here.
2012 record: 16-9-9 (57 points); 57 GF / 46 GA (+11 GD)
As far as experience with the New York Red Bulls goes, few people, if any, can match up to Mike Petke.
The current interim head coach of the Red Bulls has spent a combined 10 years with the club as both a player and a coach. He has lived plenty of the highs and lows in in the Red Bulls history, and 2012 was no exception.
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Serving as an assistant under then-head coach Hans Backe, Petke saw the Red Bulls endure a season that was plagued by injuries and inconsistency. He is one of the few holdovers from last year and is already gearing up for a 2013 that the Red Bulls are hoping will be more successful than years past.
MLSsoccer.com: You tweeted about the elimination loss to D.C. United in the playoffs shortly after that game and how painful it was for you. Why was it so painful?
Petke: It was extremely painful that last game because we had a good result, if you look at it in terms of playoffs, in D.C. To come back to our stadium, our home, we felt not over comfortable but good about our situation. It was one of the worst feelings that I’ve had for many reasons.
As far as I was concerned, we were set up nicely to get the job done and go forward. It was against our rivals and if you look at our talent and who we have on our roster, it was extremely painful not to get it done on that day, and I’m not talking [just] about the players, I’m talking about all the way through the staff as well.
MLSsoccer.com: How do you look back on the season now that you’ve had some time to reflect?
Petke: When I look back on the season, I look at when we did play well, when we put things together like we know we could, it was beautiful to watch and it was some of the best soccer in the league. I also look when we came out flat certain times, when we came out unprepared, it was one of the worst performances in the league. It was a bit of a roller coaster.
MLSsoccer.com: Injuries are a part of any season, especially one as long as MLS’, but is there any reason why the team was so plagued by injury in 2012?
Petke: If I had that answer, I’d probably be talking to Fortune magazine right now because I’d be a billionaire. You never really know why these things happen. It’s unfortunate it happened to us, [but] we had some players who have a lot of years under their belt and just happened to breakdown this year, guys who are important like Teemu Tainio.
He comes in the first year and is already one of our best players, if not the most important player, but things caught up to him. It was very unfortunate for him and us as well, but these things just happen.
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We’ve obviously looked into the way we prepare weekly for games and the fitness that we’re doing, the strength stuff we’re doing, if it’s right, if it’s wrong. It’s really to put faith in the people who are in charge with that and we would think we were a bit unlucky this year with that.
MLSsoccer.com: The club has add some pieces this offseason with players like Jámison Olave and Fabián Espíndola. How beneficial do you think it is to add players with MLS experience?
Petke: It’s been such a welcome attitude and gameplan from [new sporting director Andy Roxburgh] and the whole Red Bull organization. Him coming in here and knowing that he’s been around the world, he’s one of the most experienced people in the history, to be honest with you, with what he’s done over the last 30-something years, not only with UEFA, but managing the Scottish national team, being a player.
He’s very intelligent and he’s humble and smart enough to know that he’s coming into a new league and he doesn’t know everything about how this league works, it’s a very intricate system compared to Europe. But he does know and is convinced and he’s putting stock in young American players and on top of that the Olaves, Espíndolas, MLS-experienced players who have been in this league and are used to the rigors of the travel of this country and the long season and what it takes.
It really still right now puts a smile on my face that we have someone in here who is in charge who understands that is willing to roll with that.
MLSsoccer.com: Tim Cahill joined the team in July and many fans and sections of the media feel he did not produce enough offensively in terms of goals and assists. With half a year under his belt and a full preseason coming with the team, do you expect him to have a bigger year in 2013?
Petke: Going back to the fans and media saying that he didn’t produce or wasn’t as effective, I respect that opinion because I’m also of the mindset of a supporter first at heart, so I know how demanding they/we could be for whatever team it is that you support. But I definitely disagree with that. What he brought to this team, his experience, his energy on the field, I mean our pressing game completely changed once he got here, the way he pressed, the way he started things.
You look at the Kansas City game away when they were just pounding us and our most effective times in that game were him leading the charge and winning balls in their half. The things that he does that the casual fan or supporter that doesn’t know much about soccer, just follows it, I could understand what they’re saying. But I know there are supporters who understand the game and see what he brought to the table.
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Having said that, it’s a big adjustment no matter who you are. If you’re the best player in the world or a 17-year-old coming from wherever, coming to this league is a huge adjustment with the travel. Tim Cahill went from his farthest game in the EPL was probably a two-hour bus ride to his closest game was a two-hour bus ride in this league. It takes a lot to get used to, so I think he’s experienced that and him coming back in 2013, he’s going to be even better. But his leadership in the locker room has been invaluable this year since he arrived.
MLSsoccer.com: From the impending appointment of a new head coach to the number players coming and going, do you think the Red Bulls will be a serious contender in 2013 given all this turnover?
Petke: Absolutely I do, but I’m a guy who believes this organization so I might be way too optimistic than a normal person. I see this team doing great things in 2013. We’ve already showed it with the moves we’re making it in the offseason, the fact that Mr. Roxburgh is taking a lot of time in selecting the coach, he’s not jumping the gun and hiring somebody that’s some sort of a big name like maybe has been done in the past.
As far as turnover goes, this club has tremendous turnover since the start of the league but part of it is that’s the way business is, the way sports are. You have new managers coming, new front office people coming in and they want to bring their own people they trust in. I think the turnover we’ve had a couple of weeks ago, while it might seem extreme, it really wasn’t. It was just trimming what we needed to trim off the bottom and moving on, so I think we could definitely be contender with the moves we’ve made already and the moves are still to come and getting the right manager in like I’m confident that we will can only help us out even more than that.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.