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Mike Petke is a great coach — for Real Monarchs

What kind of coach will it take for Real Salt Lake to turn it all around?

Philadelphia Union v New York Red Bulls Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images

While no one is publicly commenting on what finally happened to tip the scale and trigger the dismissal of Jeff Cassar, I believe it can be summed up rather succinctly by the following series of posts on twitter:

To put it bluntly: If you do not put the ball in the back of the net more than your opponent you will not win games. And let’s include a side order of: If you fail to take shots, you will not score goals. While defense cannot be ignored, it is goals that wins games and puts rear ends in the seats. This brings us to a final point: If season ticket sales suck and attendance drops, somebody else is leaving the stadium. At the end of last season, management did not have season ticket figures for 2017 and attendance for the first two home games. Now they have a very good idea of how they are trending.

What can a coach do to turn around a team?

While head coaches in MLS do make a comfortable salary, it is not enough to pay out millions to bring in more talent. That is the realm of team management and ownership. To my mind a head coach can do one of two things as the teamster:

Ride the lead horses hard while at the same time trying to motivate all the rest of the pack to support them and finish strong.


Mix it up to keep the lead horses fresh for the long uphill climbs and let some of the others try to handle the flat lands and downhill slopes.

Both can go horribly wrong and both can go fantastically well. The lead horses can perform well without letup for the entirety or they can break down entirely leaving you with only the rest of the pack. The pack as a whole can step up to take the bit when called upon or they can be totally unprepared for the challenge. For much of the past several years RSL has been 0 for 2 and suffered because of it. In the end, Cassar paid the price unfair or not.

Monarchs vs. RSL

The purpose of the Monarchs is to locate and train players for the parent squad. In two seasons at most, you need to find out if the players have what it takes to find success in MLS. They need to demonstrate endurance beyond anything that have seen before and handle the pace of the top professional play. Ideally, any lead horse is quickly identified and shuffled off to the big tent, but in the process it is necessary for them to demonstrate mental toughness and physical longevity. This is the ideal environment for the teamster to ride any prospect hard and simply see what happens. There will always be more where they came from...

RSL needs to compete at a high level for extended periods of time and make the most of every dollar they can spend. This requires looking beyond this week or even this year and coming up with a way to improve the entire pack while still getting the best benefit from your true leaders. Not only is the skill required of the players greater, the skill of knowing how to mix and match is an absolute must for the teamster. While he can gamble on just the lead horses, it leaves him very open to losing it all if they falter and the pack is not there to pick up the pieces.

Mike Petke as a coach

As the head coach of NYRB during 2013 and 2014, Mike Petke gambled it all on the big horses and managed to come out ahead. Wright-Phillips scored a phenomenal number of goals with the assistance of Henry and a limited case of others. As the head coach of RSL during 2014, 2015 and 2016 Jeff Cassar did not turn out so lucky. Steps were taken to bring up the level of the pack, but not in time to save his job when the lead horses continued to fall by the wayside. I am done with gambling and read to look for a coach who has the expertise and time to be in the race for the long haul. No quick fixes and no motivational speeches. I cannot in good conscience turn the pack over to a gambler who has proven lucky thus far. Let Coach Petke take a few flyers on the Monarchs squad and see what happens but leave the salaried pack in the hands of someone who can get the most from them as a whole and not individually.

Who is that you might ask?

Here is a hint or two to let you speculate.