Colorado Rapids v New York Red Bulls

Mike Petke speaks on his relationship with Thierry Henry


One problem with Mike Petke’s potential to spin this fortuitous Red Bulls’ coaching opportunity into career gold: his success or failure may not tell us much about Petke’s true capacity as a professional coach.

Rather, it may speak only to Petke’s ability to get along with one man: Thierry Henry.

With David Beckham’s departure from MLS, Henry (pictured, along with Kenny Cooper) inherits the chair as Major League Soccer’s preeminent global superstar. (Not to mention still its highest paid, with a guaranteed compensation of about $5 million.) Even before, Henry could be something of a prima donna, unwilling to play on artificial turf, moody around the media and unafraid to speak his mind about what best suits the team, personnel-wise.

In fairness, Henry’s fabulous talent (even at age 35) gives Petke a big leg up in terms of competitive advantage against some of the clubs he’ll face. And yet …

As a first-year manager, Petke has plenty on his plate. Being asked to manage the tricky politics involved here is a heaping helping of potential headaches for any boss, let alone one on the business end of a substantial learning curve.

Don’t forget, Henry is one of France’s best players ever. The Red Bulls soccer operations are now being steered by a Frenchman, former Liverpool boss Gerard Houllier. That would seem to give Henry extra clout, should his ideas on the team ever arrive at odds with Petke’s, a troubling situation for any manager, much less one with no skins on the managerial wall.

At any rate, here’s what Petke said yesterday about his relationship with Henry.

I’ve been around the team, I know the players. We have a good relationship. Before he [Henry] came here I didn’t think anyone was as passionate about the game as I was. Whatever it is, Ping Pong, cards, whatever, he wants to win. I put him in the same category as guys like Michael Jordan and Kobe Bryant in that respect. Nothing has changed. No one will be coddled. They are human beings and men and I will treat them like men.”

Which is a great attitude for a manager – so long as everybody inside that locker room, Henry and everyone else, is committed to acting like men and not like little boys.

MLS Snapshot: Orlando City SC 2-1 Montreal Impact

Cyle Larin, Orlando City SC

The game in 100 words (or less): For weeks, it was a widely held belief that the Montreal Impact would snatch up the sixth and final playoff place in the Eastern Conference with little or no resistance from their opposition. As they went six games unbeaten (four wins), all looked to be setting up perfect for the club that fired Frank Klopas midseason, but there was another team in the race for sixth that kept winning themselves: Orlando City SC. On Saturday night, Montreal and Orlando City faced off at the Citrus, with the expansion Lions claiming their fourth-straight victory with a 2-1 triumph. Montreal now holds a one-point lead on Orlando in the race for sixth, and have two games in hand, but it’s no longer a foregone conclusion L’Impact will qualify for the playoffs no resistance whatsoever.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

33′ — Bush’s mistake gifts Larin the opening goal — Larin did what your taught to do as a striker — “put it on frame, test the goalkeeper” — but in no universe does a shot so feeble have any business finding the back of the net. Evan Bush has been great this year. Hopefully (for Montreal’s sake), this howler doesn’t turn into the yips with the playoffs looming.

43′ — Hall’s “mistake” gifts Oduro an equalizer — Dominic Oduro equalized in the 43rd minute, when he took the ball out of the hands of Tally Hall and smashed it into the back of the net, but the goal should have been disallowed due to Hall having full control of the ball.

80′ — Hines hits the winner for Orlando — Seb Hines put the ball back into the mixer and just so happened to find the back of the net in the 80th minute. Sometimes that’s all it takes.

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Man of the match: Seb Hines

Goalscorers: Larin (33′), Oduro (43′), Hines (80′)

MLS Snapshot: NY Red Bulls 2-1 Columbus Crew SC

Bradley Wright-Phillips, New York Red Bulls
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The game in 100 words (or less): Two weeks in a row Columbus Crew SC have had a chance to go top of the Eastern Conference with a victory, and two weeks in a row Crew SC have failed to take a single point from massively important fixtures. Their latest defeat, a 2-1 humbling at the hands of the East-leading New York Red Bulls, started so well for Gregg Berhalter’s side, but was undone by a pair of costly, comedic defensive errors that allowed Lloyd Sam and Bradley Wright-Phillips (15th of the season) to erase an early deficit (Justin Meram) and win all three points. The result not only keeps the Red Bulls top of the East, but gives them a three- and four-point cushion with three and two games in hand on their nearest competitors., D.C. United and New England Revoltion respectively. For Crew SC, they’re four points back of the Red Bulls in fourth place, one point ahead of fifth-place Toronto FC, who have a game in hand.

[ MORE: | Week 30 TOTW | POTW ]

Three moments that mattered

9′ — Meram pokes it past Robles for an early lead — Meram “earned” his goal all the way back in midfield, when the Iraqi international’s mazy run took a routine turnover inside Crew SC’s defensive half and turned it into a dangerous counter-attacking opportunity. Harrison Afful overlapped and provided the cross for Meram to send home.

12′ — Sam capitalizes on multiple mistakes to equalize — Crew SC pass the ball out of the back. They don’t boot it forward to clear. It’s just what they do. Sometimes, that’ll bite you. When your goalkeeper and right back both have blunders clearing the ball 10 seconds apart, you probably deserve to concede an ugly, scrappy goal.

21′ — Wright-Phillips capitalizes on more defensive gaffes — See the above description for Red Bulls goal no. 1.

[ FOLLOW: All of PST’s MLS coverageStandings | Stats | Schedule ]

Man of the match: Damien Perrinelle

Goalscorers: Meram (9′), Sam (12′), Wright-Phillips (21′)