Three good questions for: Red Bulls coach Mike Petke

Leave a comment

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. “

World Cup’s only black coach says there should be more

Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images
Leave a comment

MOSCOW (AP) — The only black coach at this year’s World Cup says there is a need for more in soccer.

“In European countries, in major clubs, you see lots of African players. Now we need African coaches for our continent to go ahead,” Senegal’s Aliou Cisse said through a translator on Monday, a day ahead of his nation’s World Cup opener against Poland.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The percentage of black players at this year’s tournament and with clubs in the world’s top leagues is far higher.

Cisse was captain of Senegal when it reached the 2002 quarterfinals in the nation’s only previous World Cup appearance.

“I am the only black coach in this World Cup. That is true,” Cisse said. “But really these are debates that disturb me. I think that football is a universal sport and that the color of your skin is of very little importance.”

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

FIFA did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Cisse cited Florent Ibenge, the coach of Congo’s national team, as a sign of progress.

“I think we have a new generation that is working, that is doing its utmost, and beyond being good players with a past of professional footballers,” Cisse said. “We are very good in our tactics, and we have the right to be part of the top international coaches.”

Africa’s best performance at the World Cup has been to reach the quarterfinals, accomplished by Cameroon in 1990, Senegal in 2002 and Ghana in 2010.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

“I have the certainty that one day an African team, an African country, will win the World Cup,” Cisse said. “It’s a bit more complicated in our countries. We have realities that are not there in other continents, but I think that the African continent is full of qualities. We are on the way, and I’m sure that Senegal, Nigeria or other African countries will be able win, just like Brazil, Germany or other European countries.”

A lack of minority managers also has been documented at the club level. The Sports People’s Think Tank said in November there were just three minority managers among the 92 English professional clubs as of Sept. 1.

World Cup: Saudi team safe after plane caught fire mid-flight

Photo credit: @SaudiNT
Leave a comment

The Saudi Arabian national team arrived alive and well in Rostov-on-Don, Russia, on Monday after a terrifying incident that saw their plane catch fire in the air.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The blaze was caused by “a technical failure in one of the airplane engines,” which the airline, Rossiya, claims was caused by a bird flying into the engine. Each of the planes engines were reportedly in operation upon landing at its final destination.

The Saudi Arabian Football Federation posted a message on Twitter later on Monday, saying they “would like to reassure everyone that all the Saudi national team players are safe, after a technical failure in one of the airplane engines that has just landed in Rostov-on-Don airport, and now they’re heading to their residence safely.”

The Green Falcons will face Uruguay in Rostov, hoping to rebound from their tournament-opening 5-0 loss to Russia on Thursday, in each side’s second game of Group A action on Wednesday (11 a.m. ET).

Seismologists clarify Mexico fans didn’t cause earthquake

Photo by Manuel Velasquez / Getty Images
Leave a comment

MEXICO CITY (AP) — Mexico’s National Seismological Service says there was seismic activity around the country’s capital Sunday, but it wasn’t linked to soccer fans celebrating their country’s game-winning goal vs. Germany at the World Cup.

[ MORE: Where to watch Tuesday’s games, feat. Colombia and Egypt ]

The service says in a report that there were two small earthquakes at 10:24 a.m. and 12:01 p.m. The goal came around 11:35 a.m. local time.

A geological institute reported Sunday that seismic detectors had registered a false earthquake that may have been generated by “massive jumps” by fans.

[ MORE: Harry Kane “buzzing” after two goals | Southgate encouraged ]

Mexico’s Seismological Service explained Monday that the city’s normal bustle of traffic and other movement causes vibrations that are detected by sensitive instruments.

It says those vibrations notably quieted during the match as people gathered in front of TVs to watch, and rose after the goal.

WATCH: World Cup, Day 6 — Colombia vs. Japan; Salah’s debut?

Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
Leave a comment

Day 6 of the 2018 World Cup is up next, on Tuesday — and would you believe it? — there’s another three games on the schedule. This whole “back-to-back-to-back games of soccer” thing isn’t so bad.

[ MORE: Latest 2018 World Cup news ] 

Up first, it’s the 2018 debut of Colombia, winners of tens hundreds of millions of hearts in 2014, as they take on Japan. In the day’s other Group H fixture, it’ll be Robert Lewandowski and Poland facing Sadio Mane and Senegal. Star power aplenty.

Then, we swing things back around to Group A, where the hosts Russia will look to continue their hot start against Egypt with Mohamed Salah expected to make his World Cup debut.

Below is Tuesday’s schedule in full.

Click here for live and on demand coverage of the World Cup online and via the NBC Sports App.


2018 World Cup schedule – Tuesday, June 19

Group H
Colombia vs. Japan: Saransk, 8 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE
Poland vs. Senegal: Moscow, 11 a.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE

Group A
Russia vs. Egypt: St. Petersburg, 2 p.m. ET – LIVE COVERAGE