Mike Petke may have been the right choice all along to take over as head coach for the New York Red Bulls. But it's hard not to see the hiring of the former Red Bulls player and assistant coach as a bit of a panic move.
At best, Petke seems to have been the second choice to assume the role with many reports suggesting Paulo Sousa turned down the job at the last-minute earlier this week. That comes on the heals of reports that Gary McCallister was previously offered the job.
If Petke were really the first choice, this is a move that likely could have been made weeks ago. The 36-year-old has presumably been under the Red Bulls employ this entire time, having served the last two seasons as an assistant under Hans Backe and even taking over the head coaching position on a few occasions.
The optics aside, this could be a solid hire for the Red Bulls, a team that has leaned toward hiring foreigners since their rebranding. Each of the past two permanent head coaching hires were Juan Carlos Osorio and Hans Backe, neither of whom had any experience in MLS. Prior to hiring Petke, 9 of the franchises 13 head coaches had been foreign-born.
Perhaps hiring a MLS insider like Petke is just the kind of move they needed. The Red Bulls remain the only original MLS franchise that has yet to win the U.S. Open Cup, Supporters' Shield or MLS Cup. While Backe managed to turn them back into a winner, he never came particularly close to getting them over that hump despite one of the most talented rosters in the league. He also showed a rather callous disregard for tournaments like the Open Cup, once infamously sending Petke, who had been a player a short time before, to coach the team.
Petke would, at the very least, know what fans are going to expect of him. The former defender was always known as a hard-worker and someone who teammates respected. It's been quite some time, probably since Bruce Arena was head coach, that the Red Bulls exuded any kind of blue-collar ethic. Maybe, this is what they need.