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. “

Statement from suspended UEFA president Michel Platini

Michel Platini, UEFA & FIFA
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Statement from suspended UEFA President Michel Platini:

Early this afternoon, I was informed of the FIFA ethics committee’s decision to impose on me a provisional 90-day suspension with immediate effect. That decision, which I will of course contest in the appropriate manner at the appropriate time, had already been the subject of a deliberate leak, and I gave my opinion on that earlier in the day.

I reject all of the allegations that have been made against me, which are based on mere semblances and are astonishingly vague. Indeed, the wording of those allegations merely states that a breach of the FIFA Code of Ethics “seems to have been committed” and that a decision on the substance of the matter cannot be taken immediately.

Despite the farcical nature of these events, I refuse to believe that this is a political decision taken in haste in order to taint a lifelong devotee of the game or crush my candidacy for the FIFA presidency.

I want everyone to know my state of mind: more than a sense of injustice or a desire for revenge, I am driven by a profound feeling of staunch defiance. I am more determined than ever to defend myself before the relevant judicial bodies.

I want to reiterate in the strongest possible terms that I will devote myself to ensuring that my good faith prevails. I have received numerous messages of support today from UEFA’s member associations and the other confederations encouraging me to continue my work serving football’s interests. Nothing will make me give up on that commitment.

EURO 2016: Ireland shock Germany, Northern Ireland qualify

Shane Long, Ireland
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A recap of Thursday’s action in 2016 European Championship qualifying:

Ireland 1-0 Germany

Southampton striker Shane Long scored the goal that knocked off the defending world champions and pushed Ireland one step closer to next summer’s European Championship in France. Long, who entered the game in the 65th minute, latched onto Darren Randolph‘s ball over the top in the 70th minute, took one touch to settle and fired for the far post, beating Manuel Neuer for the game’s only goal.

With one game still to play, Ireland (18 points) sit third in Group D, level on points with Sunday’s opponent Poland. While the winner of Sunday’s clash could leapfrog Germany (19), they will more likely finish second in the group and qualify automatically. A draw on Sunday could still see both sides qualify automatically through the ranking of third-place finishers (the top third-place finishers from group play earns an automatic berth at EURO 2016).

Northern Ireland 3-1 Greece

Norther Ireland (20 points) topped Greece (3), 3-1 on Thursday to officially book their place at EURO 2016. Steven Davis scored twice and Josh Magennis added the third for Michael O’Neill’s side.

With one game still to play (Sunday, at Finland), Northern Ireland can finish no lower than second. A draw against Finland, or any points dropped by Romania (17) would see Northern Ireland finish top of Group F.

Portugal 1-0 Denmark

Joao Moutinho scored the only goal of the game to secure Portugal’s (18 points from just seven games) place at next summer’s tournament. The defeat sees Denmark remain second in Group I, a point ahead of third-place Albania, who lost to Serbia on Thursday. Having played all eight of their group games, Denmark can go no higher than 12 points, meaning they would fail to qualify if Albania beat Armenia on Sunday. A draw between Albania and Armenia would see Denmark qualify based on tiebreakers.

Elsewhere in EURO 2016 qualifying action

Group D

Scotland 2-2 Poland
Georgia 4-0 Gibraltar

Group F

Hungary 2-1 Faroe Islands
Romania 1-1 Finland

Group I

Albania 0-2 Serbia