SANDY, Utah — Mike Petke will get another chance to lead a Major League Soccer franchise.
Real Salt Lake introduced Petke as its new head coach Wednesday. The former New York Red Bulls coach replaced Jeff Cassar, who was fired three games into the season.
Petke spent two seasons with the Red Bulls, amassing a 30-19-19 record in that stretch. New York claimed the 2013 MLS Supporters’ Shield and reached the 2014 Eastern Conference finals during his tenure.
In Utah, Petke is tasked with turning around an RSL club mired in an 11-game winless streak in regular-season MLS play dating back to 2016. Salt Lake has scored just one goal in four matches so far this season, but Petke is confident he can get the offense back on track.
“It’s a very high-powered offense,” Petke said. “They are just an animal waiting to be released from a cage. Now it’s on myself and the coaching staff to put them in the right situation and the right positions for them to break out of that cage.”
Salt Lake originally hired Petke to coach the Real Monarchs, the franchise’s USL affiliate, in December. The move raised eyebrows in the wake of Cassar’s quick ouster this season. RSL general manager Craig Waibel denied Petke was brought into the organization with the intention of having him succeed Cassar at some point.
“We were bringing Mike in to coach the Monarchs,” Waibel said. “Ultimately, the reason he was hired was because of the shared interest: Our interest in having him with the Monarchs and his interest in being with the Monarchs. There was never a conversation other than the one comment I made that was pretty black and white: if your interest doesn’t lie with the Monarchs, we’re not interested.”
Petke returns to the MLS head coaching ranks after being fired by the Red Bulls following the 2014 season. He had appeared in 196 of his 351 career MLS games as a player with the Red Bulls and MetroStars prior to becoming a head coach for the franchise.
The front office never made it clear to Petke why New York decided to let him go and replace him with Jesse Marsch.
“I was never given a reason to this day,” Petke said. “The reason was, verbatim, I was told, ‘Change needed to be made and it needed to be made now rather than later.’ I never got a straight answer even though I begged for it to make me better as a person and as a coach to hear why.”
Petke will retain Cassar’s assistants, including interim head coach Daryl Shore. Shore will serve as head coach for RSL against Minnesota United on Saturday. Petke will make his RSL coaching debut against the Vancouver Whitecaps on April 8.