By Kristian Dyer
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Hey Dieter, pay the man.
It is time for Dietrich Mateschitz to belly up to the proverbial bar as the owner of the New York Red Bulls and do the right thing for his head coach. He may be in his second year with the team as head coach, but Mike Petke has earned the right to come back next season. More than that, he deserves job security.
Petke has broken the jinxes and curses associated with this franchise, an organization he represented as a player with the MetroStars when he was drafted in 1998 and then came back years later as a Red Bulls player. Now as head coach, he captured the franchise’s first ever piece of silverware in 2013, the Supporters’ Shield, for the best regular-season record in MLS. And this year, he made the playoffs for a second straight season and beat D.C. United — the top team in the conference — in the Eastern Conference semifinals.
New York had never beaten D.C. in the playoffs, but now under Petke they’ve moved on to the conference finals for just the third time in club history. He’s broken the spell of bad results, and now they need to do right by him.
And yet despite his success, Petke still doesn’t have a long-term deal from the team; not one that rivals his competitors, at least. As the best head-coaching hire in franchise history, Petke deserves this sign of solidarity from ownership in Austria.
In September, D.C. United head coach Ben Olsen got a five-year contract extension from his team, this after being a season removed from a last-place finish in the league last year. Olsen did a solid job this year in turning his team around, but Petke has built his team into something to be reckoned with after years of suffering and disappointment.
Keep in mind, also, that Petke knocked Olsen’s team out of the playoffs just last weekend.
If the Red Bulls are serious about staying invested in MLS, in building this team and competing with expansion team New York City FC next year, then Petke is that foundation and cornerstone piece. He’s Long Island born and bred, and as a former player — drafted by the MetroStars — he’s the perfect spokesperson. He’s also competitive, passionate and in touch with the fans in a way no other head coach has been in the history of this league.
He says the right things, does the right things and cares about the right things. And the bags under his eyes in mid-November are a testament to a man who spends many late nights caring about this franchise.
If Mateschitz is serious about this franchise and building his Red Bulls team into a winner year after year, then making Petke a part of the work is a must. Already he’s brought New York its first-ever trophy, ending season after season of failed expectations with the Supporters’ Shield. And now the recent playoff triumphs show a team that continues to grow and mature.
He’s tapped into something special as he continues to grow as a head coach.
Petke is committed to the development of young players and is aiming for sustainable success. He deserves a shot at doing this beyond next year, and he deserves the stability that a contract extension and a payday should bring. He knows the game, has played in the league and has taken the time to develop as a head coach. He’s poured his heart and tears into this team.
Now, the Red Bulls needs to pour themselves into him.
If Olsen — who has done less with D.C. than Petke has done in New York — can get an extension, than it is only logical to see the Red Bulls’ skipper get the similar treatment. Anything short of this is a slap in the face to a man who has made the Red Bulls relevant again.
It is time, Dieter, to open up the checkbook. Forbes.com says you’re worth $7.5 billion and that you are among the top 200 wealthiest men in the world. Add a couple of years to Petke’s contract and perhaps a zero or two to his paycheck.
It’s only right.
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