The Red Bulls announced on Thursday morning that Petke, who had been serving as the team's interim head coach since the conclusion of the 2012 Major League Soccer season, had been appointed as the full-time head coach effectively immediately. Petke, an all-time favorite among New York supporters who played 169 total matches with the club during his MLS career, served as an assistant coach for the Red Bulls during the 2011 and 2012 campaigns.
Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh was quoted by the RBNY website as having stated the following on the matter: "Mike is very passionate about our club and has shown us that he has the leadership and organizational qualities to be our head coach. 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."
The RBNY website piece also obtained quotes from the team's new head coach. "Ever since I joined New York in 1998, this is the club that has always been closest to my heart. I am thrilled to have earned this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is truly a dream come true,"Petke stated.
Petke was never the first choice of the new Red Bulls front office that took over in October. We know this because he wasn't given the keys to the kingdom immediately after the team announced that Hans Backe would not return following New York's playoff loss to DC United. Several PR flubs that included the team not reaching agreements with the likes of Gary McAllister and Paulo Sousa left the Red Bulls with a big decision to make: Either bring in somebody new to the team who was never on any supposed "short list" of candidates, or give a loyal employee who knows the squad and is also beloved by Red Bulls fans a chance.
New York, to the delight of many supporters, went with Option B.
Petke doesn't have an easy job ahead of him. All indications are that Thierry Henry will spend, at most, two more years with the Red Bulls before moving on, and Petke will be expected to lead the team to some type of significant cup glory in that time. One positive is that Petke has shown the fire and passion during games that fans want to see from a coach, qualities that Backe hardly, if ever, displayed while with the club. The negative regarding the team's new boss is that he's never done this before, and there's guaranteed to be at least some growing pains.
All in all, I believe that this is the wisest move the Red Bulls could have made considering all that's gone down since early December. In Petke, the club now has a head coach who is very familiar with the players in the team and also with the inner workings of MLS. He has been the team's coach for roughly two months, and pushing the restart button by hiring an outsider one month before the start of the season would have been a curious move unless the team was able to acquire a true superstar coach (Pep Guardiola was never joining the Red Bulls, kids).
Fire up those #IBelieveInPetke hashtags, New York fans. It's a new day for you and for your beloved Metro.