RBNY: Petke Out – I Guess Ali Curtis Hates Cardigans?

Well, hello Red Bull fans. How are you feeling? Unnerved? Upset? Angry? Downright homicidal? Well, channel your inner Marcus Burnett (aka Martin Lawrence in Bad Boys), and say it with me…woo sah…woo sahhhhh…wooooo sahhhhh

 

Didn’t help? Nope, I didn’t think so. In the latest in a string of hapless, uninformed, boneheaded, ham-fisted, unintelligible, and downright stupid decisions, the Red Bull brass in Austria has relieved Mike Petke, savior of all things Metro, of his duties Wednesday morning. I’ve allowed myself a few days before penning this piece as I wanted to have a clearer lens through which I could judge the situation. Going through the grieving process brought on by Ali Curtis’ ingenious move to remove Petke from his post, I swung as far as disavowing this club altogether, to considering just becoming a fan of MLS and overall club-less, to testing the tepid waters of the new light-blue entrants to the league. Trust me when I say I never truly considered that last option, it was a dark time guys….please don’t hate me!

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Having had a few days to ruminate on this, I’m still angry.  I still feel hard done by and I still think that this is counter to all of the signs that this club was moving down the right road. Touting continuity, this spits directly in its face. Petke IS this franchise and had just presided over one of the best periods, if not the best, in our history. After he wins our ONLY piece of silverware in his first year, and comes within one goal of MLS Cup is his second – what more could you ask for? Some season ticket holders – the heart and soul of this club, AKA the idiotic sadists who enjoy having their emotions toyed with every year (no offense intended, as I and my father are members of said group) – have reported discussions with ticket reps where they were told that Red Bull wanted someone who could bring them MLS Cup.  For f***’s sake, he almost won it his second year, and won the league’s other trophy in his first crack at management!! On top of that, Petke squeezed every last ounce of ability and fight out of this squad, any fan who claims that this season’s performance was anything less than an overachievement is severely deluded. Secondly, if the club truly valued and wanted continuity, it would most likely entail holding onto the man who had just led your squad to an overachieving finish, actually two overachieving finishes, back-to-back. Red Bull begged to differ and Ali Curtis decided his 300+ page business plan – oOoOooOoo, fancy Ali – called for Jesse Marsch, and only Jesse Marsch, to be at its helm. But wait, Curtis contacted three other head coaches prior to choosing Marsch, you don’t say?! From the ESPN FC piece that discussed the early reports of Petke’s firing:

The source added that New York inquired as to the availability of Portland Timbers head coach Caleb Porter, Columbus Crew manager Gregg Berhalter, and even discussed the job with LA Galaxy manager Bruce Arena before offering Marsch the job.

 

Wow, talk about a slap in the face to Petke, especially when Curtis said “It wasn’t about moving Mike so much as it was bringing Jesse aboard”. The fact that three other coaches were contacted and their interest gauged, leads me to believe that there truly wasn’t a successor in mind and Curtis truly just wanted to be able to pick his own guy, whether he had Marsch in his plans from the jump or not. Just another piece of evidence showing how horribly this transition has been managed, and sadly it’s not over yet.

The squad inevitably will be molded to fit Marsch’s tactical plans, throwing the club into yet another rebuild. Couple that with Ali Curtis’ arrival – which is rumored to only be a one year deal – and a rejuvenation of this club does not appear to be in the cards. How can that be expected when two of the most important and influential figures in your squad’s performance have been replaced and have been given the grand total of one year to turn the team around – aka win MLS Cup as per the Mothership’s directives? But these changes, seemingly from the hip as they come a week before the Super Draft as well, make me feel this way about club management right now:

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What’s even more painful than kicking a club legend out on his ass is that the replacement doesn’t inspire confidence or make supporters feel like the future is any rosier than it already was under Petke. Many, like me, tend to think that we’re worse off at this point in time. We lost the guy who had won this team over, and for whom they would run through brick walls.  Will Marsch be able to squeeze performances out of these guys like Petke could and did? That remains to be seen and frankly I’m not very confident.  Marsch has proven to be an avid proponent of youth development from his time as an assistant under Bob Bradley as well as with Montreal Impact, something the RB Front Office has laid out as the focus of the club going forward. What remains to be seen is whether the talent our youth clubs supposedly have stocked away can be cultivated by Marsch and Co. to churn out a consistent side that will compete for MLS Cups on the regular. That’s another part of this ‘plan’ that Curtis has that won’t happen overnight, or even within his allotted one year.

I keep referring to Ali Curtis’ short-term deal as it is a huge point of contention for me. His terms do not scream “consistency” in reference to our new supposed philosophy. Is his leash shorter than Petke’s was? If so, how does Red Bull ever plan to implement this philosophy? There are still too many questions that are unanswered, or have been answered unsatisfactorily. For a 20-year, day-one fan, those are hard pills to swallow. There are so many things that could, and should have, been answered and implemented prior to now. There are so many clubs with better processes, facilities, academies, and organizational culture in place than us, something that is no longer ‘cutting edge’ or ahead of the curve, it’s to be expected now. Some of those clubs are younger than us – RSL, Seattle, Portland – others are original franchises that have been able to climb through their adolescent struggles to a stable, mature club – SKC, LA Galaxy, CCSC. It’s becoming an embarrassing calling card and one that leaves bitter taste in the mouth of many supporters.

With all that said, I’m not going anywhere, for now, but there are a lot of things that this franchise and management need to own up to, answer for, and fix. I don’t necessarily believe the current management, nor the ownership frankly, have the desire or the ability to bring this franchise out of the self-inflicted doldrums and into a brighter future. I will continue to hold out hope though, that’s what supporters do, we reset, rebuild, and hope.  We’re in this together Red Bull fans…

Hand clasped we pray for olé….and a silver lining in this situation….somewhere.