Red Bulls finally give Petke a new deal

JIM HAGUE (Associated Press)
The Associated Press

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) -- Sporting director Andy Roxburgh never had a doubt about reaching a new deal with Mike Petke after the rookie coach led the New York Red Bulls to 17 wins and the Supporters' Shield as the top club in the 2013 MLS regular season.

The only problem was getting the deal done. It look a lot longer than expected.

Four months after the season ended and a game into the current campaign, the Red Bulls and the 38-year-old Petke came to an agreement on a contract extension.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed and Roxburgh said Thursday that there wasn't a timetable in securing a new deal with the franchise's all-time leader in starts and games played.

''It wasn't like we just simply decided to do it and it wasn't a matter of us taking our time,'' Roxburgh said. ''It takes time to put this together. We've been talking with Mike for quite some time. It's just a matter of the process playing out. We had Mike under contract (for 2014), but we thought it would be a good thing for Mike's stability. It's an advancement and improvement to the contract that he had previously.''

Petke was an assistant under Hans Backe for two seasons. When the Red Bulls organization decided to sever ties with Backe after the 2012 campaign, the search to find a replacement took months. Petke eventually got the nod despite never having been a head coach.

The fiery Petke was a perfect fit for the Red Bulls. The franchise enjoyed its best regular season in club history (17-9-8) before falling in the first round of the playoffs to Houston.

''He's dedicated to developing himself as a coach and we're trying to give him the absolute maximum support to push him along that track,'' Roxburgh said in a conference call.

There was no significance to the timing of the deal, even though the Red Bulls are coming off a 4-1 loss to Vancouver to open the 2014 season on Saturday. The Red Bulls open their home schedule Saturday afternoon against the Colorado Rapids.

''It wasn't a matter of getting it out of the way,'' Roxburgh said. ''It's just taking the next step that's advisable to both Mike and the club. He's committed to the team and we're committed to him. He's a young coach with a lot of potential. We want him to fulfill his potential. We needed to give Mike some kind of security and stability with the club.''

Roxburgh said that the season opening loss ''was disappointing.''

''In fact, we were shocked,'' he said. ''We were missing key players (captain Thierry Henry and top defender Jamison Olave) who can't play on an artificial pitch. We just have to focus on the next game and get back on track. We want to get that game behind us as quick as possible.''

Roxburgh said that he wasn't concerned about the frigid weather that has engulfed the metropolitan New York area. The temperature was around 20 degrees when the Red Bulls trained Thursday.

''We have managed to cope quite well in the cold,'' Roxburgh said. ''Besides, it toughens them up a little.''

Forecast for Saturday is sunny and temperatures in the 40s for the 4 p.m. start.

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