By ERIC GIACOMETTI
New York Red Bulls’ head coach Mike Petke revealed how little the team’s Austrian ownership thought of the oldest tournament in U.S. Soccer history leading up to the team’s clash against the Cosmos.
On Saturday night, it seems that same indifferent mindset rubbed off on not only the head coach, but his team as well.
On their home turf, the Cosmos overran and outmatched a listless and largely underwhelming Red Bulls side to the tune of 3-0.
Under normal circumstances, that kind of result would render Petke into a fit of rage.
Not this time.
“This has no bearing in the MLS season,” Petke said after the match. “We got five guys an opportunity tonight. We had starters mixed in as well.
“This was the World Cup to them and my guys didn’t view it that way.”
In uncharacteristic fashion, the Red Bulls’ boss greeted reporters with a smile while speaking of the devastating loss. Within minutes, it was clear; Petke had already moved on from the U.S. Open Cup result.
“Tomorrow, we wake up, we play Toronto the next game,” Petke began. “I don’t know who they play next. We are in the MLS. Just doesn’t mean we are going to lose MLS Cup and it doesn’t mean we will win the MLS Cup.
“It means nothing,” he concludes. “We lost, we are out of the Open Cup and we move on.”
With several key names absent from their starting lineup, the Red Bulls still managed to field a strong team featuring many of Petke’s first-choice players. However, the difference in quality was evident from the opening whistle as the Cosmos put their foot on the gas pedal and never let up.
The reason, Petke says, is motivation.
“I think [Cosmos head coach] Giovanni [Savarese]’s quote last week was this is like Barcelona vs. Real Madrid. A couple of tweets were ‘ready to make history.’
“My guys, my biggest job this week was to get these guys to understand it’s a game and we want to win it,” Petke said after the match. “Vacation starts tomorrow, not today.
“I wasn’t able to do that.”
Perhaps the 3-0 result at the hands of their crosstown rivals should be anything but a shock. As evidenced by Petke’s comments immediately following the Cup draw, the Red Bulls head coach labeled the June 14th fourth round match up as “catastrophic.” Although he later backtracked on his use of such strong wording, his initial reactions align much closer to the sentiments reflected in his post game comments.
In the weeks that preceded the most anticipated derby in New York soccer history, Petke was careful to temper expectations without discounting the tournament outright. However, his squad’s performance on the pitch was indicative of just how much importance was truly placed on this match.
“Did I see this coming? Perhaps part of me saw there was at least a 50-50 chance we weren’t going to win because of the occasion for [the Cosmos],” Petke admits.
“Me, I was up for it, I was trying to get the guys up for it, but at the end of the day, we have a much needed rest we start tomorrow for a week, then we have a game against Toronto we have to prepare for.
Whether or not the Cosmos approached this match as their World Cup, the Red Bulls simply never showed up. The mere presence of this Open Cup match seemed to be nothing more than an inconvenience; a rude interruption of what the Red Bulls had already made up in their minds as “vacation time.”
In the end, it doesn’t seem that Petke will be losing any sleep over his side’s early exit from the US Open Cup. Perhaps the 500 fans that made the trip to cheer on their team shouldn’t either.