By Glenn Crooks
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Mike Petke has a new gig. Consequently, he is my new boss.
The former player and coach for the New York Red Bulls has been named the Director of Coaching for the New Jersey State Youth Soccer Association.
I coach the U-15 girls in the NJ Olympic Development Program.
“I am extremely excited to join the NJ Youth Soccer family and contribute to the future development of players in our state,” Petke said in statement. “As a father of two young soccer players, I understand the importance of growth, on and off of the field, and am looking forward to working with the great staff at NJ Youth Soccer to build upon that strong foundation.”
Petke, who grew up on Long Island and attended St. John’s The Baptist High School in West Islip, New York, has been a revered figure among Red Bulls supporters for both his blue collar mentality as a player and his successful record as a coach.
In 2013, Petke was named the 14th coach Red Bulls history (including the time when they were known as the MetroStars). At 30-19-19, he had the best two-year run the club has ever seen while guiding the Red Bulls to their first trophy, the 2013 Supporters Shield. The following season, the Red Bulls advanced to the Eastern Conference finals. Six weeks later Petke was out of a job and Red Bulls supporters went on a Twitter rampage. Petke, with a program-record 169 playing appearances, was the face of the franchise.
“To the supporters, especially the South Ward, you have embodied everything that I live my life by; Respect, Accountability and above all Loyalty,” Petke wrote on his Twitter account at the time. “Thank you for everything you have done for my family and I. I can never repay you. I will see you at some point at the Arena as I will always support this team.”
True to his word, Petke returned to Red Bull Arena on Oct. 3 when he was honored during the Red Bulls’ year-long 20 in 20 celebration, which featured the top 20 players in franchise history.
Since his dismissal, the common discussion in the soccer community focused on Petke’s next stop. And while he sought opportunities both inside and outside Major League Soccer, the “right fit” did not materialize.
Regardless, there are four or five MLS coaches who may be in jeopardy should their teams struggle at the start of the season, which begins on March 6.
“I decided that I’m not going to sit on my couch and see if anything happens,” Petke told me just before Thursday’s announcement. “I’ve never taken a job where I did not put everything into it. This is not a stop-over for me. That being said, I will always do what is best for my family, but it would have to be a hell of an opportunity for me to think about anything else. My complete 100-percent commitment is to NJ Youth Soccer.”
Petke, who turns 40 on Saturday, has been a commentator on One World Sports and ESPN during his break from professional coaching. He lives in Middletown, New Jersey, and is married to Kim Faust Petke, a former soccer All-American at The College of New Jersey. He also helps train his boys in the Middletown Soccer Club.
“I’m extremely happy to be part of an organization that has churned out some pretty amazing players like the four in the World Cup from New Jersey (Carli Lloyd, Heather O’Reilly, Tobin Heath, Christie Rampone) …. Howard, Meola, Harkes, Gavin, Eskandarian on the boys side,” said Petke who played on the U-18, U-21 and full U.S. Men’s National Teams. “I hope I can help groom the next batch of great players in NJ.”
Petke, who played in the Eastern New York ODP program, replaces 18-year NJYS DOC Rick Meana, who will continue as Director of Coaching Education with a renewed focus on Recreation and TOPSoccer programs.
— Although neither team has confirmed, Red Bulls 20-year-old center back Matt Miazga is bound for Stamford Bridge and the Chelsea Football Club on a $5 million transfer. According to MLS policy, the Red Bulls will receive three-quarters of the fee.
Miazga, a native of Clifton, New Jersey, has been a Red Bulls Academy player since he was 14 and signed a Homegrown contract in 2013.
He left recently to join the U.S. Men’s National team for training camp in advance of their Saturday friendly versus Iceland. However, his locker at national camp is now empty after Miazga took a flight to London to finalize his move to The Blues.
— MLS Coach of the Year Jesse Marsch kicked off Red Bulls preseason with a familiar theme.
“We always try to start with chaotic training sessions that are really fast and in some ways out of control,” Marsch said after their first session on Tuesday in Florida. “We throw the young guys into the deep end. The only way to get them up to speed is to put them over their heads. It’s also good for the established guys to get back to where we were playing at the end of the year.”
— He’s 6-foot-3 and that might be the best news for New York City FC. The club confirmed on Thursday that they have signed the French international center back Frederic Brilliant on a transfer from 1st Division Belgian club, K.V. Oostende.
“It will be an honor for me to be coached by Patrick Vieira,” said Brilliant, referring to NYCFC’s first-year coach — a World Cup champion with France in 1998. “He is a role model in France for what he’s achieved in his career and is known throughout the game for his leadership.”
“Frederic is very composed with the ball at his feet and has a great understanding of the game,” Vieira said.
Even with the addition of Brilliant, New York City still has the most diminutive back line in MLS. Critical points in the table were surrendered during the inaugural season due to a poor air game in the middle of defense and on set pieces.
“With his strength and his ability to anticipate danger, he could be a real asset to the team,” remarked NYCFC Sporting Director Claudio Reyna.
Brilliant joins newcomer Ethan White, plus returning center backs Jason Hernandez and Jefferson Mena in the competition for a more secure central defense.
— Sports Business Journal speculated recently that there has been financial movement, which would indicate that NYCFC may be closer to finding a new home venue.
“Source said to expect news soon on a new stadium site for NYCFC,” I was told.
NYCFC currently plays its home matches at Yankee Stadium.
— The defending NASL champion New York Cosmos are poised to announce a major signing. According to Kris Dyer of Metro Sports, Venezuelan international Juan Arango was in town Thursday to complete a deal.
The 36-year-old Arango has played in the German Bundesliga and most recently with Tijuana in Liga MX. The attacking midfielder has made 127 appearances for his country.
— US Soccer launched the Boys Development Academy in 2007. Last month, the Executive Board approved the addition of a Girls Development Academy. The unveiling was scheduled this past Monday, but was postponed. While the Federation gave no reason for the delay, it is believed that US Soccer plans to reach out to the hierarchy of the Elite Clubs National League (ECNL) to communicate its mission prior to a formal announcement.
Although it fluctuates slightly with each camp and event, approximately 85 percent of the U.S. youth national teams are comprised of players from ECNL clubs.
“There is so much power in collaboration,” said ECNL President, Christian Lavers, one of seven ECNL coaches who have been part of the U.S. National staff. “We have so many good people in the grass roots. We have a diversity of backgrounds with a diversity of opinion. It’s the best way to grow the game.”
I have learned that the Girls DA will adopt the model of the Boys DA, which means players will be prohibited from playing high school soccer. It is the sort of mandate that will be heavily debated in the soccer community and may lead to strong objections from the top clubs in the country who may choose to maintain their current development structures.
For all things soccer, please follow Glenn on Twitter at @GlennCrooks