We have heard it since mid-season, read about it in story after story, and seen the proof on the field: Mike Petke has changed the culture of the New York Red Bulls.
But what does that mean? What improvements have been made to result in such a drastic difference in cohesion and chemistry?
Petke himself provided some of the answers after a training session last week:
“How do you expect someone to come in and [hear], ‘You play for the Red Bulls now – you have to love it’? That doesn’t happen that way. How it happens is for what happens throughout the year – how you treat them, what the organization does, what the message is – and for them to believe in it and for them to buy into it.
“In years past, there’s been so much turnover. There have been players coming here just for the paycheck. There have been players coming here when they really didn’t want to. Now I look around here, and every player – through whatever the reason is this year, whatever we’ve done – [is] excited to be here, and they’re excited to be a part of it. They realize what Red Bull does, from the training facility to the stadium to our travel to how we’re treated on the road. Everything.
"That’s when you start believing in something, you know? It’s like a family. … If you’re taken care of and shown you’re worth something and shown they want you to be here, 99 percent of the people in the world will respond to that and jump on board, and these guys have.”
With the Supporters' Shield secure, Petke's team will take to the Red Bull Arena field next Wednesday night for the second leg of the Eastern Conference semifinals, trying to advance to New York's first conference championship since going all the way to MLS Cup in 2008. The first leg can be seen at 3:30 pm ET on Sunday on NBC, and several local pubs have special offers for the occasion.