Mike Petke was extremely aggravated after seeing his Red Bulls get outplayed in their 2014 season opener. And there was one person he specifically had in his crosshairs.
Missing Thierry Henry and Jamison Olave due to injury precaution, the Red Bulls’ makeshift starting lineup were torn asunder from the first whistle to the final kick, as they were soundly beaten, 4-1, last Saturday in Vancouver. Lacking defensive shape and getting overrun in the midfield time and time again, Petke aimed his fury not at any player, but at himself.
“It’s on me,” he said to the media after the defeat. “I got it completely wrong … my game plan obviously was wrong. The whole focus was the first game, the preseason and the week leading up. With the result, I got it wrong.”
It’s tough to criticize a man who has had a Midas touch since taking over as coach, but Petke did make some changes that raised eyebrows. Perhaps looking to surprise new Whitecaps coach Carl Robinson – a former Red Bulls player and coach who has worked with Petke in the past – Petke decided to overhaul his starting XI, giving starts to three new signings. Whether the final outcome was due to lack of chemistry or lack of quality, Petke’s experiment fell short of expectations.
He decided to use Peguy Luyindula as a striker to replace Henry. While Luyindula was an effective player down the stretch last season, his best moments in 2013 were mostly as an attacking midfielder, just behind the main strikers. The Frenchman couldn’t get on the same wavelength as Tim Cahill, with the Australian international being used in the role of secondary striker. Despite dominating possession, 57 percent to 42 percent, New York’s vaunted attack lacked verve and creativity.
The defense and midfield also struggled and were shredded by an energetic Whitecaps attack on numerous occasions. Forced on the back foot, New York struggled mightily without the dominant physical presence of Olave and gifted chances. Two of the Red Bulls’ new signings, right back Richard Eckersley and center back Armando, were targeted specifically by Vancouver, as the Whitecaps took advantage.
The good news for the Red Bulls is that Petke most likely won’t be employing the same starting lineup for this Saturday’s match against the Colorado Rapids for New York’s home opener. Henry and Olave will make their 2014 debuts and will undoubtedly improve the Red Bulls’ attacking and defensively play against a rebuilding Rapids side playing its first match of the season.
Petke Signs New Contract
It was expected for quite some time, but it became official Wednesday, as Mike Petke finally put pen to paper to a contract extension as the Red Bulls’ head coach.
Last year’s strong showing and the passion for the job were keys for the Red Bulls’ front office in agreeing to the new contract.
“Mike is a passionate coach with great potential and this improved contract is the club’s way of recognizing last season’s Supporters’ Shield success,” Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh said in a press release. “In the highly competitive MLS, winning the regular season title last year was a great achievement and provides Mike and the club with a good platform to build on.”