Hours after firing Mike Petke, the Red Bulls hired his replacement. Jesse Marsch has been appointed the club's new manager, capping a strange day for a club.
The Red Bulls have long been one of MLS's most disappointing and underachieving clubs. Despite spending a ton of money, getting favorable treatment from the league and hiring some of the biggest coaching names MLS has seen, they couldn't win a single trophy until 2013. Then, in Petke's first season in charge, they captured the Supporters' Shield and finally had use for a trophy case.
Petke wasn't just the only manager to ever win a trophy in New York, though. He played for the club and, after retiring, took a job in the front office, then worked as an assistant coach before getting the top job. He was beloved by fans and an institution at a club that has long been plagued by turnover. And all of that was on top of that Supporters' Shield.
So why was he fired? It's not as if he had a disastrous 2014 season. The Red Bulls made the playoffs again and went to the Eastern Conference final. In terms of on-field performance, there's little reason for Petke to get the axe, and there was never a problem with him off the field either.
The only explanation for Petke's firing is that he wasn't Ali Curtis' man. Curtis took over as New York's sporting director this season and Petke was the incumbent manager, not the one that Curtis picked. Maybe they weren't on the same page and it wasn't going to work with Curtis and Petke, but Petke's page was more successful and popular than any other in Red Bulls history.
Now Curtis has his guy in Marsch. The former MLS midfielder spent one season as the manager of the Montreal Impact, failing to make the playoffs in the club's inaugural campaign. Prior to that, he was an assistant to Bob Bradley with the United States. There were questions about how good Marsch was in his one season with Montreal, but the Impact have proven to be somewhat dysfunctional and it was their first season in MLS. Now he'll have a chance with a better roster and more resources, but also at a club that has never had a manager for longer than three seasons.
Petke's firing is still bizarre, but he will find another managerial job before long. He leaves the club with a good reputation and nothing but well wishes. Meanwhile, the men still at the Red Bulls, Curtis and Marsch, have a bullseye on their backs from day one. They have to be successful, or the torches and pitchforks will be out.