At long last, the New York Red Bulls' search for a head coach is over, and after almost two months of deliberating, the club didn't have to look far to make its hire.
Former New York Red Bulls defensive stalwart Mike Petke had the interim coach tag removed and was named the club's permanent head coach Thursday after an arduous search for a foreign candidate came up empty.
Petke, the club's all-time leader in games played with 169, spent the last year as an assistant to Hans Backe, and he was given the interim label after Backe left the club following the 2012 season. The Red Bulls had reportedly been in talks with the likes of Gary McAllister and Paulo Sousa, but the club did not agree to terms with either manager, and it has instead turned to Petke to lead the team on a full-time basis.
"Mike is very passionate about our club and has shown us that he has the leadership and organizational qualities to be our head coach," Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said in a team statement. "He is a terrific servant for this club, from being a top player to most recently heading our reserve squad.
"Mike has earned this opportunity and he will have the full support of our staff to help ensure the team’s success. We believe that his experience both as a player and coach in American soccer will be a significant asset as we head into the 2013 season."
Petke, 36, becomes the fifth coach without any previous MLS head coaching experience to lead a team heading into the 2013 season, joining Chivas USA's Jose Luis Sanchez Sola, Portland's Caleb Porter, Montreal Impact's Marco Schallibaum and Toronto FC's Ryan Nelsen.
Petke knows the league better than most, though. He joined the Red Bulls (then known as the New York/New Jersey MetroStars) in 1998 and played five seasons with the club before departing two-plus seasons with D.C. United and more than three seasons with the Colorado Rapids. The New York native returned to the Red Bulls in 2009, and he retired following the 2010 season.
"Ever since I joined New York in 1998, this is the club that has always been closest to my heart. I am thrilled to have earned this once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It is truly a dream come true," Petke said in a team statement. "I know there is a lot of work ahead and our challenge is not easy. However, I am excited to take hold of my new responsibility and hopeful that I can help build a hard-working team that our club’s loyal supporters can all be proud of."