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New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke learns difficult lesson in loss to Columbus Crew

Mike Petke was downright miserable, so much so that he may have rendered a chair unusable.

Forced to watch from a box at Crew Stadium after having been sent off late in the previous week’s match vs. Sporting Kansas City, Petke was extremely frustrated as he helplessly saw his New York Red Bulls put forth a disjointed performance in a 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew this past Saturday.

What made matters worse for Petke was that a group of Crew fans sitting feet from in front of him recognized him shortly after the opening whistle, and heckled him throughout.

It was an extremely difficult and unpleasant moment for Petke to endure, but one that served as a valuable lesson for the rookie head coach.

“Walking in prior to the start of that the game, I had a moment and said, ‘Maybe this is good for me,’” Petke told reporters in a conference call on Tuesday, the first time he talked publicly about the loss in Columbus. “Maybe I needed to get detached for a game and be up top and looking down and seeing a bigger picture, which is a very different view from sitting on the sideline, obviously.

“But I needed every second of it. Not being able to influence anything, not being able to communicate, it was terrible. [Assistant coach] Robin [Fraser] asked me, 'Is that enough for me to learn my lesson?' and I said, ‘I hope so,’ because I can’t control who I am on the sidelines at times and I am a young inexperienced coach in aspects like that. Maybe as I get older and maybe as my career does continue for years and years and year, I will become better at that. I hope it’s enough to learn my lesson because I don’t ever want to be in that situation again.”

Per MLS rules, Petke was not allowed to communicate with any member of his staff or players from the second the team arrived at the stadium until the final whistle blew. Petke, however, discussed prior to the match what he was expecting from his team and the failure to execute that plan left him and the players severely disappointed.

“There’s a lot of things that I was disgusted with and there were a lot of things that they were as well,” said Petke. “We move on from it.”

While the Red Bulls do not have too much time to dwell on the loss, their road woes are becoming an alarming issue that needs to be addressed. New York have been shut out in four of their last five road games en route to a 1-3-1 record during that stretch, and Petke is looking for ways to put an end to that dilemma once and for all.

“As far as the road games go, specifically the last couple, I feel like we explained in detail what we were expecting, what we were looking for,” said Petke. “I don’t know. I don’t have an answer, to be honest with you. I do not have an answer to how we could beat Montreal 4-0 at home and tie 0-0 against [Toronto] the next weekend and then come home beat Salt Lake then beat Kansas City on the road and then lose to Columbus on the road.

“It’s mind-boggling and I’m sure it’s mind-boggling to players, too. I would hope it is. I can’t put my finger on it, to be honest with you. I can’t. If I could, we’ll go undefeated the rest of the season on the road if I had that answer.”

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