Mike Petke

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Real Salt Lake part ways with GM Craig Waibel

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Real Salt Lake’s internal situation continues to worsen.

On Friday, the club announced it parted ways with general manager Craig Waibel. The decision comes in the wake of a lawsuit filed by former coach Mike Petke, which references a conversation in which Waibel was critical of RSL owner Dell Loy Hansen and admitted that he was resigning from the club at the end of the season.

“I would like to thank Dell Loy Hansen for the opportunities presented to me over the past six years,” Waibel said a statement released by the club. “During this time, I have experienced an incredible amount of personal and professional growth and I am proud of the work we have accomplished. While I am stepping away to take some time to evaluate the next step in my career, I want to wish Dell Loy, the locker room, and most importantly, the fans nothing but the best in their pursuit of the 2019 MLS Cup.”

This week, Petke and his attorneys filed a complaint to a Salt Lake County district court indicating that the MLS team breached the 43-year-old’s contract when he was fired in August days after shouting a homophobic slur in Spanish at a Panamanian official in Leagues Cup play. Within the lawsuit, a conversation Petke, Waibel and Rob Zarkos, executive vice president of soccer operations, was revealed.

Waibel is quoted telling Petke: “Thank you, I am exhausted, confused, emotionally spent, and disappointed that this is the only thing that makes sense. I have always known where the issues in this organization are born … and I have never once believe[d] that anything last year was created by you or I as individuals. This is [the toughest] work environment in Major League Soccer without a doubt.”

In the conversation, per the lawsuit, Petke and Waibel are described to have exchanged text messages regarding whether or not the former coach would resign and take the $75,000 in severance pay, or to deny the option and be fined. When Petke asked if him calling Hansen, who was filmed saying he was considering firing Petke before the official announcement, would make a difference, Waibel responded: “He [Hansen] won’t pick up. Refuses to be the bad guy.”

On the same statement released by the team on Friday, Hansen thanked Waibel for his contributions to the organization.

“I appreciate Craig coming to Real Salt Lake for the 2014 season as part of the coaching staff,” Hansen said in a statement. “Craig oversaw the organization’s integration of the Real Monarchs, Utah Royals FC in the National Women’s Soccer League, and the relocation and expansion of the Real Salt Lake Academy, which now trains and plays at the Zions Bank Training Center in Herriman, Utah.  Craig has been instrumental in the Club’s rapid growth and I wish him success in the future.”

Longtime club employee and assistant GM Elliot Fall was named interim GM, while the club “Immediately” searches for a replacement. Zarkos, despite being mentioned in the lawsuit, will remain in his position.
With 47 points and two games left in the regular season, Real Salt Lake are a win away from clinching playoffs.

Petke releases statement after RSL dismissal

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Two days after his firing from Real Salt Lake, former head coach Mike Petke has broken his silence with a statement released on social media.

Posted on his official Twitter account, Petke admitted that he lost his temper with referee John Francis Pitti after Real Salt Lake’s 1-0 defeat to Tigres UANL on July 24 and acted poorly in berating the officials. However, he also made clear that he didn’t believe his actions were his true character and he hinted at a potential lawsuit, stating he will “have the chance to discuss the club’s decision in a forum in the future.”

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Petke also noted that he had signed a contract extension to stay with RSL for the future, only to lose his job days later.

According to reports from the Athletic, Petke allegedly used a Spanish word that is used as a Homophobic slur when speaking to the officials, which reportedly led to his dismissal. Many RSL fans were vocal in their opposition to Petke’s alleged language and there were reports that some of the club’s sponsors expressed issues with Petke’s actions.

The firing on Sunday ended a two-and-a-half year run for Petke in Utah. He was named head coach of RSL’s USL-club, Real Monarchs in late 2016, but just before the start of their season, he was promoted to Real Salt Lake head coach after the dismissal of then-coach Jeff Cassar in similar, expedited fashion.

Petke’s fiery passion and exuberance were on display on the sidelines and in post game press conferences during his time as RSL coach. But in terms of on-the-field success, Petke led RSL to the playoffs last year and had his team in position to make the playoffs this year, if the season ended today.

With Petke gone, assistant coach Freddy Juarez has been elevated to be the new head coach for the rest of the MLS season.

Real Salt Lake dismisses head coach Mike Petke

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Mike Petke is no longer in charge of Real Salt Lake, the team announced on Sunday.

Freddy Juarez, the team’s assistant coach, will take over as the interim head coach for the remaining ten games. Petke was set to return from a two-week suspension on Monday.

The cub issued the following statement regarding the news:

“At Real Salt Lake, we have the privilege to represent our great community and fans here locally and on a national and global basis.  We hold all of our coaches, players, executives and staff to the highest standards of professionalism. As an organization, it is vital that everyone, particularly our leadership, reflects and embodies our core values and the values of our community, treating all people with respect, civility and professionalism. Moreover, throughout our 15-year history, we have championed diversity, acceptance and inclusion throughout our organization, our stadiums and our community.  This is a responsibility that we take very seriously.

“On Tuesday, July 30, after an investigation and in conjunction with Major League Soccer, the club levied the steepest sanctions ever imposed on an MLS coach when we suspended Mike Petke without pay for two weeks in addition to his three-match suspension in MLS and $25,000 fine. After further deliberations and a series of constructive discussions internally and with various members of our community, we have concluded, pursuant to his employment agreement, to immediately terminate Mike Petke’s employment.”

The decision to terminate Petke’s contract comes weeks after the 43-year-old’s altercation with referees following RSL’s 1-0 loss to Club America on July 24 in the Leagues Cup, which initially earned him a red card. Shortly after, MLS opened an investigation on the incident. According to multiple reports, Petke was ultimately suspended for shouting homophobic slurs at the officials.

Hired in 2017, Petke went 39-36-16 across all league competition. In 2018, RSL qualified for the playoffs, losing to Sporting Kansas City in the Western Conference quarterfinals.

Sixth in the Western Conference with 37 points, RSL has yet to lose under Juarez, drawing once and winning its last two.

MLS suspends Petke after Leagues Cup red card

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Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke is no stranger to fines and suspensions, and he’ll be serving another one for at least this weekend, if not longer.

After receiving a red card post game from the officials following RSL’s 1-0 defeat to Tigres, MLS announced on Saturday, just minutes before RSL’s match against FC Dallas, that it had suspended Petke for his actions and are looking further into the incident.

“Major League Soccer has suspended Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke pending an investigation into his conduct directed at the match officials following the Leagues Cup match against Tigres UANL on Wednesday night,” the league said in a statement. “Petke will miss Saturday’s match at FC Dallas.”

Following the defeat to Tigres, Petke claimed in his postgame press conference that he was just trying to pull players away from the officials when he was shown the red card, but then had some choice words for the crew following that.

What’s questionable about this is that in what’s effectively an exhibition tournament set up by MLS, why should the league suspend Petke? Well, one reason is to try and make it seem more official. If red cards, suspensions, or other action taken by officials could carry over into league matches, it gives the tournament a little more legitimacy, and not something clubs could just ignore. Plus, as RSL beat writer Alex Vejar points out, MLS had every right to make, or not make, this decision.

It’s unclear whether this will go past a one-match suspension for Petke, but there’s no doubt that it won’t change his behavior. Petke is who he is, and he has a lot of fans exactly for those reasons, including in the RSL locker room.

Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke suspended, fined

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NEW YORK (AP) Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke has been suspended an additional game and fined $10,000 by Major League Soccer for on-field misconduct during a game against Minnesota United.

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The suspension announced Wednesday follows an automatic one-game game ban for being ejected from the Utah club’s 3-1 road loss Saturday night.

Petke was fined for abusive and profane language directed at officials, uncontrollable behavior when he was ejected and public criticism of officials during a postgame press conference. Real Salt Lake also was fined $10,000 fine for social media posts.

Petke will miss games Saturday night against Colorado and July 28 against San Jose.