After lengthy search, Red Bulls tab Petke new head coach

Mike Petke, New York interim coach

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After a lengthy search to find the brand new face of the New York Red Bulls, the club is moving forward with one of the most familiar figures in franchise history.

The Red Bulls announced on Thursday that assistant coach Mike Petke has been promoted to the club’s top spot for the 2013 season, 15 years after he broke into Major League Soccer as a hard-charging and devoted young defender for the New York/New Jersey MetroStars.

Petke, who turns 37 years old next week, becomes the third-youngest coach in the league behind D.C. United’s Ben Olsen and Toronto FC’s Ryan Nelsen, and the first American-born head coach in New York since the club parted ways with Bruce Arena in November 2007. He's also the 12th current coach in MLS who played in the league at some point in his career.

READ: Petke always a New York giant

The Long Island native holds the current club record for games played, with 169 (196 in all competitions), games started (158 regular season) and minutes played (14,060 regular season).

“Ever since I joined New York in 1998, this is the club that has always been closest to my heart,” Petke said in a statement. “I am thrilled to have earned this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is truly a dream come true. I know there is a lot of work ahead and our challenge is not easy. However, I am excited to take hold of my new responsibility and hopeful that I can help build a hard-working team that our club’s loyal supporters can all be proud of.”

Petke emerged as the Red Bulls’ choice after the club was linked to a number of international coaches in recent months, and reportedly offered the job to both former Aston Villa assistant Gary McAllister and former Portuguese international Paulo Sousa. Petke joined the coaching staff in 2011 and has served as the team’s interim head coach since the club parted ways with Hans Backe after the team was eliminated from the playoffs in the Eastern Conference semifinals in November.

2012 In Review: Q&A with Mike Petke

Petke spent the first five years of his career as a player with New York and emerged as a three-time All-Star and a fan favorite before he was dealt to D.C. United ahead of the 2003 season. He spent more than two seasons playing for New York’s chief rival and then another three-plus seasons with the Colorado Rapids before he eventually returned to New York, where he closed out his career on the backline with the Red Bulls from 2009-10.

“Mike is very passionate about our club and has shown us that he has the leadership and organizational qualities to be our head coach,” Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said in a statement. “He is a terrific servant for this club, from being a top player to most recently heading our reserve squad. Mike has earned this opportunity and he will have the full support of our staff to help ensure the team’s success. We believe that his experience both as a player and coach in American soccer will be a significant asset as we head into the 2013 season."