Just under two years after his controversial firing by the New York Red Bulls, former MetroStars/Red Bulls legend Mike Petke has made his return to the coaching ranks as the newly appointed Head Coach of USL side Real Monarchs.
Brian Dunseth tweeted out prior to his show on Sirius XM that Petke had been "newly-minted" as the Monarchs HC - and the club would confirm via a Retweet on their official Twitter page only minutes later.
The Monarchs finished the 2016 USL season 11th in the Western Conference table, finishing five points behind 8th-seed Orange County Blues.
Over the past few weeks, Real Monarchs and their parent club Real Salt Lake have been quietly restructuring their coaching tree: former Monarchs head coach Freddy Juarez was internally promoted to assistant coach of Real Salt Lake after the club parted ways with former assistant (and former RBNY coach) Richie Williams.
Petke played for the MetroStars from 1998 to 2002, and returned to the club from 2009 to 2010. He retired as the club's all-time leader in minutes played and appearances in MLS - marks that were broken and tied respectively by Dax McCarty in 2016.
After serving as a Red Bulls assistant from 2011 to 2012, Petke was named Red Bulls head coach in 2013 and led the team to its first ever domestic silverware: the 2013 Supporters' Shield.
Following a somewhat frustrating 2014 campaign, Petke was fired on January 7, 2015 by newly-hired sporting director Ali Curtis in a controversial move that saw significant backlash from supporters.
In the 23 months since his firing, Petke has taken on a variety of roles, including color commentary, youth soccer management and radio.
Petke's new role with the Monarchs will only result in him crossing paths with reigning USL champions NYRB II if the two teams see each other in the 2017 USL Championship.
As reported by Empire of Soccer's Dave Martinez, Petke has been in the frame for other coaching jobs since leaving RBNY:
Per the Salt Lake Tribune, Petke explained he has been biding his time:
The last two years, I've done a lot of thinking and had a couple of opportunities that just never seemed right. This checked my boxes. Everything just clicked and it fell into place.
Real Monarchs is the Real Salt Lake B-team, which means Petke primary role is to groom players for RSL's MLS squad. It is certainly possible for a team to perform very well in USL under such constraints - John Wolyniec did so with NYRB II in 2016 - but the new coach told the Salt Lake Tribune he is under no illusions about the task ahead of him:
I'm competitive and want to win a USL championship, but at the end of the day, to me it's all about feeding the first team.