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Eight for Eight: Peguy Luyindula was the making of Mike Petke

Nick Abbott offers our third tribute to Peguy...

Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

More than anyone else, I think Peguy came to symbolize Mike Petke’s evolution as a coach. Over the course of two seasons, he was instrumental in the team figuring out its identity - and finding success.

As everyone remembers, he was thought to be a forward for most of his first year with the club, a position that was not a good fit for him in the slightest. Markus Holgersson and Jamison Olave figuring things out in the back, Luis Robles coming into his own, and Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry forming a deadly partnership up top: these factors undoubtedly played a huge role down the stretch in the fall of 2013.

But the team didn’t really hit its stride until Peguy came into the center of midfield and started pulling the strings. Petke had figured out how to use him, and the team became much stronger because of it. In the long off-season after that heartbreaking playoff loss to Houston, every fan wondered what might have been if Peguy had started in the second leg, a decision Petke referred to as his "biggest mistake."

And despite his stellar showing at the end of 2013, Peguy struggled to get on the field consistently in 2014. Petke summed up his philosophy regarding team selection early in the season, saying, "If I have 11 guys who are my best players and are playing in practice and showing me, I’m going to find a spot to put them in." That meant that even though Peguy may have been a better positional fit, the team’s three all-stars—Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips, and Tim Cahill—were almost guaranteed a spot in the starting eleven.

Once again, Peguy’s progression—or, rather, the progression in how he was used—was emblematic of the team’s progression over the season and Petke’s development as a coach. After numerous performances in which his lack of tactical discipline and poor fit at center midfield hurt the team, Tim Cahill was benched, Petke changed the team’s formation, and Peguy was given a chance as the team’s central attacking midfielder.

Petke had grown from his tactically averse perspective from early in the year to a prioritization of team chemistry over individual talent. And, just like at the end of 2013, it was the insertion of Peguy into the lineup that set the team up for a late season run. This time, Petke gave him a chance in the playoffs, and Peguy did not disappoint, amassing three goals and two assists in five playoff games.

And then, like Petke, Peguy’s time with the Red Bulls ended surprisingly, mysteriously, and unceremoniously. We might think of Petke's time in charge as part of the "Henry Era" in Harrison, but Luyindula was arguably the coach's true bellwether and talisman.

Red Bulls fans have been pining for a true number 10 ever since the departure of Amado Guevara. The Red Bulls never got Xavi or Kaka or Ronaldinho or Frank Lampard or Steven Gerrard; instead, we got a neglected, miscast, aging player, a player who had once had great promise but whose career had sort of fizzled out. He might not have been the number 10 we thought we deserved. But he was definitely the one we needed.

Eight for Eight is Once A Metro's tribute to Peguy Luyindula. Let us know your thoughts in the comments. Check out our Story Stream for Parts One and Two - and stay tuned for Part Four.