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After months of searching abroad, New York Red Bulls promote Mike Petke to head coach

HARRISON, N.J. – The New York Red Bulls announced today that they have named Mike Petke head coach, effective immediately. Petke, who is one of the club’s most popular all-time players and its leader in games played, was previously filling the role on an interim basis while a lengthy search was conducted for a foreign coach.

The Red Bulls declined to renew the contract of coach Hans Backe at the close of the 2012 season and were reported to have been deep in negotiations with Paulo Sousa, a former Portuguese international who previously managed at English clubs Queens Park Rangers and Swansea City, and former Aston Villa assistant coach/caretaker manager Gary McAllister.

But with time ticking away and no one secured as the 2013 preseason arrived, the club has finally turned to a native son who has proved his loyalty as both a player and a coach.

“Mike is very passionate about our club and has shown us that he has the leadership and organizational qualities to be our head coach,” said Red Bulls Sporting Director Andy Roxburgh in a press release. “He is a terrific servant for this club, from being a top player to most recently heading our reserve squad. Mike has earned this opportunity and he will have the full support of our staff to help ensure the team’s success. We believe that his experience both as a player and coach in American soccer will be a significant asset as we head into the 2013 season.”

Petke, 36, just finished his second season as an assistant coach on New York’s staff after an illustrious playing career. He joined the coaching ranks in 2011 following a 13-year career that included two playing stints with the club from 1998-2002 and 2008-10. The Bohemia, N.Y. native holds the current club record for games played, with 169 (196 in all competitions), games started (158 regular season) and minutes played (14,060 regular season).

“Ever since I joined New York in 1998, 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,” Petke said. “I know there is a lot of work ahead and our challenge is not easy. However, I am excited to take hold of my new responsibility and hopeful that I can help build a hard-working team that our club’s loyal supporters can all be proud of.”

Drafted by New York in 1998 with the 8th overall pick in the MLS Draft, Petke made his debut on April 17, 1998 against the Chicago Fire. He helped the team to its first Eastern Division title in 2000 and was thrice named an MLS All-Star. Petke was traded to D.C. United before the 2003 season and won his only MLS Cup in 2004 with United. He was then traded to Colorado during their 2005 campaign, helping the Rapids to reach the Western Conference Finals.

The Red Bulls signed Petke again at the end of 2008 and he played 35 more matches for the team until retiring following the 2010 season. He was named the club’s 2009 Defender of the Year and helped New York to its second Eastern Conference regular season title in his final season. Petke finished his career with 307 appearances in league play (351 in all competitions), in which he scored 13 goals and added four assists. He is one of 16 MLS players who has appeared in 300 or more career regular season matches. Petke also appeared in nine playoff matches and 13 U.S. Open Cup matches as a member of the New York franchise and earned two caps for the United States.

Prior to his professional career, Petke spent four years at Southern Connecticut State University, leading the team to the NCAA Division II National title in 1995.