He was a beloved player with attitude, spirit and personality. He passed through the college system and entered the league in 1998 before winning an MLS Cup trophy with D.C. United in 2004. He was an assistant coach and then caretaker for his original club while management searched far and wide for a permanent hire. As the process hit twists and turns, the club turned back to him and offered him the full-time gig.
The story of Ben Olsen, yes? No. Try Mike Petke. With spooky parallels to his former teammate’s rise, Petke on Thursday was named head coach of the New York Red Bulls.
Here’s Petke’s comment today: “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.”
Here’s Olsen’s comment in November 2010 after being named United’s leader: “I love this club and it’s been a big part of my life, and I want it to succeed.”
Olsen, 35, and Petke, 36, were on the 2004 United squad that defeated Kansas City, 3-2, in the MLS Cup final at Home Depot Center. So was defender Ryan Nelsen, who was recently appointed head coach of Toronto FC. The DCU roster also included Alecko Eskandarian and Josh Gros (who worked for Philadelphia’s technical staff), Jaime Moreno (United under-23 coach), Ezra Hendrickson (Seattle Sounders assistant coach), Earnie Stewart (AZ Alkmaar’s director of football) and David Stokes (high school coach in D.C. area).
Petke, a Long Islander, also played for the Colorado Rapids but will be best remembered as a MetroStar/Red Bull, the club at which he started and finished his 13-year pro career.
Petke’s hiring puts the number of former MLS players turned MLS head coaches at 12, joining Olsen, Nelsen, New England’s Jay Heaps, Real Salt Lake’s Jason Kreis, Chicago’s Frank Klopas, Sporting Kansas City’s Peter Vermes, Columbus’s Robert Warzycha, Colorado’s Oscar Pareja, Portland’s Caleb Porter, Houston’s Dominic Kinnear and San Jose’s Frank Yallop. (Ex-MLSers Jesse Marsch at Montreal and Robin Fraser at Chivas USA were dismissed this winter.)