Red Bulls' Petke cherishing opportunity as interim coach

Mike Petke, New York interim coach

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While the New York Red Bulls have been busy searching for a new head coach, Mike Petke has been learning as much as possible while he’s still on the job.

Petke has been the Red Bulls interim head coach since former head coach Hans Backe’s departure in early November, and the 36-year-old has soaked up as much information as possible during his time in charge. From planning training sessions to partaking in team meetings with members of the front office, Petke has learned many of the intricacies that come with having to lead a team and he is not shy about sharing how much he has enjoyed his time as the Red Bulls’ boss – even if he knows it is only temporary.

“I’ve taken it for what it is, which is a valuable learning experience,” Petke told MLSsoccer.com last month. “Even though it was only around six practices, just preparing for those practices, communicating with the rest of the staff, setting things up, getting players in, it was an experience that was phenomenal for me.”

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What Petke may be taking away from the experience even more so than how to prepare for practices is how tough choices are made behind closed doors.

Petke never really saw what went into the decision-making behind acquiring and releasing players during his two years working under Backe, but he got a taste of that at the start of the offseason while working with sporting director Andy Roxburgh and head of global soccer Gerard Houllier.

“Being able to sit in on those meetings and see certain things was eye-opening,” said Petke. “I played for 13 years, but I was always a guy like the supporters saying, ‘How the heck could you cut this guy?’ But when you look at that bottom line number you have to be at and look at who’s guaranteed and who we need, there’s a lot of casualties involved.”

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Petke’s time to be a head coach might not be right now, but that is not stopping him from looking ahead to the day when he is ready to take over the reigns of a team on a full-time basis.

“Of course, it’s something I’m working for, working towards in the future,” said Petke. “Someday my goal is, obviously, to be a head coach.”

Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at Franco8813@gmail.com.