New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke didn't just shoulder some of the blame following his club’s embarrassing season-opening loss.
He took all of it.
Following a surprising 4-1 defeat to the Vancouver Whitecaps at BC Place on Saturday, a clearly perturbed Petke repeatedly pointed the finger at himself for the humbling opening-day result his Red Bulls endured. The second-year manager answered every question during his brief postgame interview by reverting back to one theme -- that he was the one responsible for the loss.
“The wrong one and it’s on me,” said Petke when asked about his approach to the match that the 2013 Supporters’ Shield winners’ fans were anxiously awaiting. “I got it completely wrong. It comes down to me. That’s all. What can I elaborate on? My gameplan, obviously, was wrong. The whole focus was for the first game [during] the whole preseason and the week leading up, and with the result, I got it wrong.”
While it may be commendable that the passionate Petke said he was at fault for the defeat and did not chalk it up to simply being outplayed because he was without key starters Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave (the aging veterans with chronic injury issues that Petke chose not to take to Vancouver due to the turf field at BC Place), the quick acknowledgement of his errors illustrate just how wrong he was against a Whitecaps team led by debuting head coach Carl Robinson.
Without Henry in the lineup, Petke mistakenly opted to deploy Tim Cahill and Peguy Luyindula in the two forward roles while pairing Eric Alexander and Dax McCarty in central midfield. Defensively, Petke incorrectly tried to compensate for the loss of Olave by starting the three offseason additions in Richard Eckersley, Armando and Bobby Convey.
The result? A disjointed and disappointing effort, one in which the attack only showed brief glimpses through Luyindula and Lloyd Sam and in which the defense understandably lacked cohesion and familiarity.
“My approach to the game, putting players in better spots, analyzing a little better and giving players better information,” said Petke on what he could’ve done differently.
Hindsight is 20/20, but it was apparent to quite a few observers when the lineups were announced that Petke likely would have been better served had he started a natural forward like Bradley Wright-Phillips (who scored the lone goal for New York late in the match) to stretch Vancouver’s backline while also leaving Luyindula in the central midfield spot the Frenchman has thrived in since the end of last season.
Additionally, Petke might have been wise to start another player along the back line, like Kosuke Kimura or Roy Miller, who played for the club last year. After all, continuity was the common buzzword during the preseason.
In the grand scheme of things, Saturday’s defeat means very little. There are still 33 matches left to play in the season and every team in the league is likely to have a setback, if not several, like the one the Red Bulls had in their season opener.
Still, that does not change the fact that New York, specifically Petke, have some work to do.
“What I said to the players is, 'Get it out of your head, go home, reflect a little bit, and I will do my best to come up with something better,’” said Petke.
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.