14 days 'til MLS: Will Petke use his bench more than Backe?

As the MLS season approaches, MLSsoccer.com marks each passing day with a different statistic, observation or talking point, setting the stage for March 2.

14 – Players per game New York may decide to use under Mike Petke

For a fanbase that's had plenty to gritch about during its club's history, Hans Backe's substitution patterns hold a special place in the Red Bulls' pantheon of complaints.

Conventional wisdom was that the now-disposed Swede was loathe to use his seven-man bench, and when he did, his choices were often bizarre or simply too little too late.

With Backe left to stalk the broadcast booth back in Sweden instead of the sideline at Red Bull Arena, the decision-making falls to first-year head coach Mike Petke. Will he follow in the footsteps of the man he assisted for the past two seasons? Like the fans, did Petke wonder what was going through his boss' mind when a peculiar change was made or substitutes stayed glued to their seats for 90 minutes?

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Looking only at 2012, it's clear Backe never felt a responsibility to burn all three of this substitutions, doing so 17 times in 36 games, including the playoff series against D.C. United. But he also failed to make a single change just once, sending two players on 12 times and going with a lone substitution in an additional six matches.

Will those trends change under Petke? We'll just have to wait and see.

Either way, Red Bulls fans are going to have to find something or someone else to hold in contempt in 2013.

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