Shortly after Real Salt Lake’s finale last Sunday, coach Mike Petke thanked the fans for helping restore his love of the game.
That passion waned a bit when he was fired as New York Red Bulls head coach after 2014 despite two very successful seasons — which included a Supporters' Shield in 2013.
Seven whirlwind months as RSL’s coach restored a love for the game he played his whole life, and it’s a love he’ll get a chance to continue to grow in Utah over the coming years.
Real Salt Lake owner Dell Loy Hansen announced Thursday that Petke has signed a three-year contract extension that will keep him in Utah through the 2020 season.
“The arrival of Mike Petke into our organization over the past 10 months, first as a head coach of the Monarchs and then in his seven months with RSL, has re-energized not only the fan base and the locker room, but myself and every single person involved,” said Hansen.
RSL fired Jeff Cassar three games into the season, and Petke took over as head coach ahead of the team’s Vancouver game on April 8. His record in those 29 games at the helm was 13-15-6.
The club surged in the latter half of the season, closing with an 8-3-4 record over the final 15 games. It wasn’t enough to make the playoffs, but Petke is ecstatic about the foundation that was laid and to keep building for the next three years.
“Loyalty is huge for me. I am ecstatic about Mr. Hansen coming to me and offering me this contract,” said Petke. “I’m ecstatic at the prospect of being here at least three more years. And I’m excited and ecstatic about what I think we can accomplish together — Mr. Hansen, (GM) Craig Waibel, myself the players, the whole organization. I’m on cloud nine because I have an owner who values me, likes what I’m doing and wants to reward me for that.”
It’s a stark contrast to how he was treated in New York, where he was fired just before the preseason because of a differing philosophy with the new technical director.
Petke said coaching in Utah has been a better experience.
“I’m given a canvas with a paint brush to do what I feel is right as far as playing style, as far as selection, whereas perhaps in New York there were a lot more influences around,” said Petke.
By the end of the season, RSL was playing the style Petke wants, and he believes after bolstering the roster in the coming months the returning players will be able to pick up where they ended the 2017 season.
Petke also announced on Thursday that he will retain all of his assistant coaches from this season.
Real Salt Lake is breaking from tradition a bit this offseason by conducting its player exit meetings a week later than normal. Last year, Waibel and the coaching staff met with the players three days after the team was eliminated from the playoffs, and Waibel said everything felt rushed.
Waibel and the coaching staff will begin meeting with the players early next week. After those meetings, Waibel said the club can begin to move forward with roster decisions. Most notably will be whether the club re-signs free agents Nick Rimando and Kyle Beckerman, and how it deals with Jefferson Savarino and Brooks Lennon, who were here in a one-year loan.