Last Sunday's match-up with the Portland Timbers might've been short on the discipline we're used to seeing out of Timbers-Red Bulls games, but what the newest installment does have is some coach-on-coach verbal sparring.
Mike Petke, fresh off his head coaching debut, took exception to post-game comments made by fellow head coaching rookie Caleb Porter.
"Two of the goals we basically gave them," Porter said, referring to several defensive blunders that directly led to New York goals. "It wasn't anything they did to earn them, we gave them to them. If you give up goals, you'd rather it be in a way where they do something to break you down. But we gave them two goals on a platter, and that's ultimately what cost us three points. ... It was more we made them take their foot off the gas because we jammed it down their throats."
Porter, it has to be said, has every right to be the happier of the two coaches. A draw is a draw, sure, both teams split one point, but that when you come back down two goals a draw feels a bit more like a win. On the flip side, when you let a team back into the game, like the Red Bulls did Sunday, it feels more like a loss.
But Petke, no stranger to confrontation in his playing days, disagreed with Porter's assessment of the game. He addressed Porter's comments "one at a time" after today's snowy practice.
"He made it as them gifting us two goals and stuffing it down our throat in second half. It makes me chuckle. First, I want to talk gifting - on their second Robles," he said referring to Luis Robles, "parried a shot at the feet of their player. Their third was an own goal. I'll concede that maybe the score should have been 1-1, but there's no way comments like that belong. No way in the N.C.A.A. and no way in Akron. If you want to do motivating, do it behind closed doors, don't do it in the press. They were reeling and backtracking because of what they didn't deliver to their home crowd. I'm not happy about those comments."
The truth, really, lies somewhere in between. Yes, the Timbers might've "shoved it down (the Red Bulls) throats" but in reality, the Red Bulls took their foot off the gas well before that. And, yeah, the first two Red Bulls goals came off Mikael Silvestre gaffes. But Fabian Espindola still has to finish. Especially on the second goal.
But it's not necessarily about the truth. Or even one coach's perception versus another's. If Petke really wants the team to stick up for one another, sometimes you've got to set the example by sticking up for his players. In a post-practice media scrum. Where they're, you know, right there.
The trick is to make sure the looking back doesn't carry over into Sunday's match against the San Jose Earthquakes...