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Growing Pains

Mike Petke's first game as a head coach went...alright. While a point on the road is nice, his post-game quotes are better.

Getting energized pre-game.
Getting energized pre-game.
Scott Olmos-USA TODAY Sports

To say the Red Bulls were trying to protect their lead in the second half in Sunday's season opener against the Portland Timbers would be an understatement.

The Red Bulls failed to control the midfield, failed to create chances and gave the Timbers a vast possession advantage.

Wonder where they got the idea...

"I just think that we possibly came out with the mindset that we should save the lead instead of keep doing what we were doing in the first half," (Head Coach Mike) Petke said. "That falls on the coaching staff first and foremost. Maybe we should have made it clearer.

"At the end of the day they battled, and there are guys in that locker room that are crushed right now. To see that type of attitude and that sort of letdown after scoring three goals on the road and getting a point on the road, which in MLS is very difficult to do, it's great to see them pissed off."

In a sport that's more a "player's game" than a "coach's game," it's up to the team's boss to set the tone since he can't do much else. And Petke didn't. Or, at least, he didn't set the right tone. A rookie mistake from a rookie head coach.

But we all knew this kind of thing was going to happen when they hired Petke. You don't hire a rookie head coach and expect him to come in and perform like a seasoned veteran. Just like players have to learn to be veterans, and deal with the longer season, more training sessions, etc., there's an adjustment period for coaches, too.

And that's where we are. Petke is still trying to figure out how to be a coach.

The positive Red Bulls watchers can take away from this might be more valuable than the two extra points dropped in the last 45 minutes Sunday: Accountability. Yeah, there were defensive lapses. Yeah, some players went missing. But if the head coach is willing to take his share of the blame for dropping a valuable two points on the road, the players will follow. Because just like at half time at Jeld-Wen Field, it's Petke who sets the tone.