Petke head shot

Three good questions for: Red Bulls coach Mike Petke

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Young coaches who once passed and trapped in the league are all the rage.

Two years ago, Ben Olsen was plucked from the recent player rolls to take charge at D.C. United. Last year it was Jay Heaps, wearing the label of the 30-something, MLS alum, rookie manager. He’s at New England.

Now it’s Mike Petke’s turn to uphold the honor of young buck managers and former MLS men attempting to demonstrate what seems clear to some of us: that knowledge of the league trumps international soccer savvy in terms of steering clubs here.

Of course, Petke isn’t thinking about all that; he’s just trying to keep it together during a crash course on head coaching. Now on the job for about a month, it’s on Petke to squeeze the most from the New York Red Bulls talented roster, one that just might include the most skillful man ever to wear MLS colors in Thierry Henry.

As you go through your first preseason – your first days as a professional head coach –do you have moments in the day where you might feel overwhelmed?

Absolutely. Being overwhelmed is a daily thing right now. But it’s how you react to it that matters. I’ve learned very quickly that I have to take moments out of the day, whether it’s to do a crossword puzzle, call my wife, just sit in the room and close my eyes. Just those couple of minutes are very important. I don’t get those every day. But, yes, there are definitely some overwhelming moments.”

You recently hired Robin Fraser, a highly respected figure who has been an assistant coach and head coach in MLS. How much does it help having that guy next to you in daily sessions, etc.?

He brings a ton of experience that is so vital for me as a coach, and for the team. His personality gels so well not only with me, but with the team. I knew Robin before he came here for the most part, but I’ve really gotten to know him over the last couple of week. He understands, I think, how I tick. And I made it clear to him, as I would have made it clear to anybody who got the job … that I didn’t want a ‘yes’ man. I can’t have a ‘yes’ man. I need someone to challenge me, to tell me when he disagrees with me. At the end of the day, of course I am going to make the decisions. But you need that give and take with somebody.”

Fans love talking tactics. What can you tell us about the basic formation you’d like to play?

We’re going to play a variation of an attacking style of play. You can put a label on it if you like. At times it’s going to be a 4-4-2, at times it’s going to be a 4-1-3-2, at times it’s going to be a 4-2-3-1, at times it’s going to be a 4-3-3. To us, it’s what happens when we lose the ball and how we react, to win it back. So to have the offensive power of Henry, of Cahill, of Espindola [and others …] for me, at this moment, to tell them we are going to play ‘this’ system handcuffs the type players we have. Of course, there has to be a basic starting point. But they are free to flow, to interact. The beauty to me is to see, especially, Henry and Espindola when they are interchangeable. “

TFC’s Bradley: “Responsibility, privilege and passion” on line in playoffs

WASHINGTON, DC - OCTOBER 11: Michael Bradley #4 of United States looks on against New Zealand in the second half during an International Friendly at RFK Stadium on October 11, 2016 in Washington, DC. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images)
Photo by Patrick Smith/Getty Images
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Toronto FC’s supporters fell in love with the club almost immediately, but it’s taken to Year 10 for the Reds to get a home playoff match.

The latest batch of TFC stars have embraced the battle for relevance, at times even surpassing expectations the lofty expectations of championship-starved Toronto.

[ MORE: Bradley talks TFC renaissance

This is a city which has seen the Blue Jays and Raptors find the precipice of glory in recent seasons, but not reach the apex. The Leafs haven’t been to a Stanley Cup final since the NHL had a whopping six teams.

So winning would be a mighty big accomplishment, right Michael Bradley?


“Being captain or a big player on a team in this city carries an extra weight,” said captain Michael Bradley. “I’ve loved every second of that; playing in this city, for this city, and being captain. It’ll be nights like Wednesday night where the responsibility, privilege and passion that I have for this role will get magnified that much more.”

He has a way with words, doesn’t he? The USMNT captain begins Canada’s quest for a title at 7:30 p.m. ET against visiting Philadelphia.

Whitecaps lock up Welsh coach Robinson through 2020

VANCOUVER, BC - APRIL 5:  Head coach Carl Robinson (right) of the Vancouver Whitecaps FC during their MLS game against the Colorado Rapids April 5, 2014 in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. Colorado won 2-1. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images
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Vancouver is hanging onto stalwart coach Carl Robinson despite a massively disappointing season.

The Whitecaps were tipped to compete for the Supporters’ Shield, only to miss the playoffs. There were plenty of excuses for the ‘Caps, including an injury to Kekuta Manneh and the transfer of Octavio Rivero.

And Vancouver is alive as the No. 1 seed in the CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinals, also claiming the Cascadia Cup.

[ MORE: Nyarko says DC can aim high ]

Robinson has signed an extension through 2020, from

“Carl’s body of work over the course of his five years at the club has shown that he is one of the top up-and-coming head coaches in North America. While this past season was certainly a learning experience for everyone involved within the club, we have complete faith in Carl’s continued vision in acquiring the necessary players to build a team that will compete with the best in MLS.”

Robinson turned 40 this month, and has been leading the ‘Caps since December 2013. This is a smart move for both Vancouver and its coach.

PST shortlists Major League Soccer award candidates

New York City FC forward David Villa, left, and New York City FC defender Chris Wingert celebrate Villa's early goal during the first half of the match between New York City FC and Toronto FC, Sunday, July 12, 2015, at Yankee Stadium in New York. (AP Photo/Kevin Hagen)
AP Photo/Kevin Hagen
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Major League Soccer’s playoff run begins tonight with Philadelphia at Toronto and LA hosting Real Salt Lake, and it also gives us a chance to run down the regular season.

We’ve already discussed several items, including Portland and Columbus’ historic flops, DC United’s red-hot form, pre-playoff power rankings, and predictions.

[ MORE: Chalobah’s double nutmeg ]

But what about the season that was, the one that saw Bradley Wright-Phillips snag his second Golden Boot and Colorado nearly grab a shocking Supporters’ Shield?

We rounded up our staff’s opinions to put together combined shortlists for MLS awards.

Rookie of the Year

Jordan Morris (Seattle)
Keegan Rosenberry (Philadelphia)
Alex Muyl (RBNY)
Jack Harrison (NYCFC)
Jonathan Campbell (Chicago)

Newcomer of the Year

Ronald Matarrita (NYCFC)
Ashley Cole (LA Galaxy)
Tim Howard (Colorado)
Nicolas Lodeiro (Seattle)
Jelle van Damme (LA Galaxy)
Luciano Acosta (DC United)
Ola Kamara (Columbus)
Shkelzen Gashi (Colorado)

Goalkeeper of the Year

Brian Rowe (LA Galaxy)
Andre Blake (Philadelphia)
David Bingham (San Jose)
Jake Gleeson (Portland)
Luis Robles (RBNY)

Coach of the Year

Patrick Vieira (NYCFC)
Jesse Marsch (RBNY)
Pablo Mastroeni (Colorado)
Oscar Pareja (Dallas)
Greg Vanney (Toronto)

Most Valuable Player

David Villa (NYCFC)
Sebastian Giovinco (Toronto)
Sacha Kljestan (RBNY)
Bradley Wright-Phillips (RBNY)
Ignacio Piatti (Montreal)
Osvaldo Alonso (Seattle)

Spanish FF fines Valencia for bottle toss; Chastises Barcelona

VALENCIA, SPAIN - OCTOBER 22:  FC Barcelona are hit by objects thrown from the seats after Lionel Messi of FC Barcelona scores his team's third goal from the penalty spot during the La Liga match between Valencia CF and FC Barcelona at Mestalla stadium on October 22, 2016 in Valencia, Spain.  (Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images)
Photo by David Ramos/Getty Images
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Spain’s football federation has fined Valencia about $1600 for the water bottle tossed at celebrating Barcelona players on Saturday.

It’s also criticized Barca’s reaction to Neymar being hit with the water bottle.

[ MORE: Watch the incident here ]

Lionel Messi in particular flipped out at fans, who were furious after Barca scored a match-winning penalty and celebrated near the touch line.

From the BBC:

Spain’s football federation criticised the Barca players for their “exaggerated reaction” and for celebrating in front of home fans, but added “nothing justified” the reaction of the Valencia supporters.

There’s an easy joke to make about playacting/diving here, as Luis Suarez hits the deck despite not appearing to be hit.

But it’s critical to remember that these players at the moment don’t have any idea what’s happened, only that they’ve been hit. And Suarez is covering head, perhaps wondering what’s coming next. Neymar laying on the pitch for a while seems a bit overboard, but I don’t blame Messi nor his teammates for being furious with the supporters.

What do you make of it?