HANOVER, N.J. – Mike Petke understands why the New York Red Bulls will not be fielding a USL PRO team in 2015, but that does not mean he wants one any less.
A day after Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh told BigAppleSoccer.com that the club would not be launching a USL PRO side next season as was expected, Petke touched on the subject Tuesday. The second-year head coach admitted he wished New York would create a third-division side to help with player development, but that ultimately it was not his decision to make.
“At the end of the day, in any professional sports, there’s a huge element of business that goes into it, so it doesn’t come down to just a soccer decision, what’s best in a soccer standpoint,” said Petke after Tuesday’s practice. “I certainly don’t foot that bill to open up a USL PRO team, how much it costs, so I really can’t offer my opinion on it. Would I like to have a USL PRO team? Absolutely. It would benefit us greatly.
“But like I said a second ago, I don’t make those decisions and I don’t have that money or offer that money to pay for it. So that comes down to a global situation, and Red Bull Global felt that it wasn’t the right thing to do.”
Instead, the Red Bulls are planning to enter an affiliate partnership next season with an existing USL PRO team. That would require New York to loan out four players, something they did this season with the likes of defender Connor Lade (New York Cosmos) and Ian Christianson (Orlando City).
The Red Bulls came away pleased with the results of those deals.
“That’s definitely something that, after the fact of realizing we’re not going to do a USL PRO team, are things we need to explore,” said Petke. “I can’t say enough that Connor has enjoyed his time there, they’ve enjoyed having Connor there and we’re happy that he’s there. Yes, in a perfect world it would be a situation that we could continue with.”
Lade actually made his way back to the Red Bulls on Tuesday, recalled from his loan spell ahead of the Red Bulls’ CONCACAF Champions League trip to take on the Montreal Impact on Wednesday (8 pm ET; Fox Sports 2). New York are currently low on available bodies due to a number of factors, including injuries and visa issues, and Petke said Lade will play on Wednesday.
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The versatile Lade said Tuesday that he witnessed firsthand how advantageous going on loan can be, as he saw time in several matches for the Cosmos.
“The training sessions they run there and all the guys there, they’ve got a lot of players who have played in MLS or have the potential to. So it’s a very high level,” said Lade. “Every training session is very good and when we get to the games we feel really prepared and I feel like we play at a really good level. That’s absolutely kept me on my toes.
“… It’s definitely not a step down at all. It’s actually stepped me up.”
While loans can be extremely beneficial to all parties involved, having a USL PRO team to stockpile with talented and young reserves lacking competitive games is increasingly being seen by most MLS teams as the ideal solution for player development.
It’s why more and more clubs are taking steps to start their own USL PRO teams and why Petke prefers that to an affiliate partnership.
“It’d be a dream. That’d honestly be a dream,” said Petke. “That way we’re getting guys games in real competition, and they’re more ready week-in and week-out to contribute to the first team. Every club has their own situations and their own philosophies. It’d be phenomenal if we had that.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by email at Franco8813@gmail.com.