Petke talks Red Bulls’ needs ahead of offseason

IMAGE, MATT KREMKAU FOR EMPIRE OF SOCCER

When Red Bulls’ rookie head coach Mike Petke took on his position to start the 2013 season, he was handed a mish-mosh treasure trove of talent with little expectation for success.

Somehow, he managed to inspire those players towards the MLS Supporters’ Shield.

Now, he will look to make his team even better with the luxury of a full offseason – and he has very clear ideas of what kind of players the team will need to do so.

“We fell short of our last goal, but like I said at the last press conference, baby steps. You can’t expect to turnaround this franchise 100% in one year. Winning the Shield and being the best team over the course of a 34 game season is tremendous. These guys earned it and should be proud of it,” Petke told reporters. “Now we look forward to next year. The rebuilding process has started and the preparation has started.”

Don’t let that phrase “rebuilding” fool you; Petke made clear that he was not looking for a team overhaul. Rather, he has taken an early and honest assessment of the club’s needs and will look to fill those roles with domestic or foreign based talent – perhaps even using the club’s third Designated Player option to do so.

But not at the cost of the team.

“We ended the regular season as the regular season champions,” he explained. “Obviously, the players we have are good and we did something right, the players did something right. We don’t feel the need for an overhaul and I feel that is one thing in the past that has plagued this organization, whether Red Bull or Metrostars, when it’s not necessary.”

That, of course, doesn’t mean they plan to mirror this year’s roster for 2014.

“First and foremost, we need a creative type player. Whether it be an attacking midfielder or just someone who can play in the midfield. We need someone who can thread those passes. We have guys who are capable and are hard workers but we dont have that true attacking link up kind of player.

“We will be looking for that.” he acknowledged, adding, “We also need a little more up and down on the flanks. We need true outside backs.”

This year, the Red Bulls scoured options on both the midfield wings and the fullback slots. Kosuke Kimura and Brandon Barklage battled for their positions on the right back slot. Roy Miller is now joined by David Carney on the left. No one player has been able to safely and securely cement their position in the starting XI.

“The way we played this year, that home open next year will be a little different as far as our outside backs really getting into the attack and contributing offensively,” Petke said.

On the wings, New York lacked a penetrating option. While Lloyd Sam certainly shined in limited opportunities, he was often forced into competition for the spot with team favorite Eric Alexander; a natural central midfielder. Sam’s health issues also slowed his progress throughout the season, taking him out of starting contention. Jonny Steele, meanwhile, overtook the left wing spot despite being hired as a depth option.

Outside of Sam, no player in the midfield pool possessed the speed and ability to get in behind on a defense.

And where will the search for talent begin? Some options will be explored within the U.S. Others, abroad. Much of that responsibility will be on the back of Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh.

“That’s Andy’s job – to bring in the players,” Petke said. “Obviously, he knows the game and has connections.

“Andy and I have a good working relationship and are on the same page.”

With a green light from Austria to garner a DP, the team will be scouring the world over for talent, whether that be a mega-star or a youth player with international potential.

But unlike years past, the DP isn’t top priority on the club’s list. The key, Petke says, is that the player, whether DP or Academy product – be the right fit for the club; especially in light of the culture they have established this year.

The other aspect, of course, is maneuvering the league’s involved and expansive salary constrictions.

“With this damn salary cap, we don’t want to be in a situation like last year having to give up somebody like Kenny Cooper because of the salary cap,” Petke explained. “There are definitely some money issues. Thankfully, that’s not my area. The right people are working on that to figure out certain contracts and type of funds we have to bring some fresh blood in.”

  • Petke brought up Kenny Cooper and rightfully so. They spent all year trying to replace him! Bring back Coop!