HANOVER, N.J. – The self-imposed gag order might still be in place, but one only needs to know New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke to understand just how much it would mean to see his team win on Sunday.
Petke once again stayed relatively quiet on Friday ahead of a regular-season finale against the Chicago Fire that could see the Red Bulls win the Supporters' Shield for the first time in club history (Sunday, 5 pm ET, MSG, UniMás). But the first-year head coach was not completely mum about potentially seeing his club lift the Supporters’ Shield, offering some insight into what he has been feeling since the day it was made clear that New York would control its own destiny.
“This has been an interesting two weeks for me,” said the New York native, who has been pressed all week on the subject of winning a title in his first season. “This has been a very interesting two weeks for me leading up to the Houston game and now leading up to the Chicago game. Just when I thought maybe I’d felt everything in my life about emotions, this and that, it’s been an interesting two weeks for me internally. I’ll leave it at that.”
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Petke may not have revealed much in that response, but it confirmed what everyone suspects: Petke is not as relaxed as his poker face suggests.
How could he be? After all, this is a passionate man who has devoted himself to the club since beginning his career as a player back in 1998, a man who has seen and endured the seemingly never-ending frustration and heartbreak of both players and fans, a man who – in many ways – stands for everything the team is about.
"We all know that his heart is in New York, and he definitely wants to prove something," said midfielder Jonny Steele. "I think it will be good for him."
“When you look at Petke as a player in turning to coach and with a team like this, it’s an amazing scenario where we have one of the best chances ever in 18 years to win something,” added midfielder Tim Cahill. “He’s done it in a season. We’re nearly there. It’s a long way to go, but the reality of it for the coach, it speaks for itself.”
Franco Panizo covers the New York Red Bulls for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached by e-mail at Franco8813@gmail.com.