Real Salt Lake will have to endure two more games without its head coach on the sidelines.
Mike Petke has been handed a multi-game suspension by Major League Soccer. He will miss a total of three games and also be fined $25,000. The suspension, which started last Saturday against FC Dallas, will extend to a home game this Saturday against New York City FC and a road game Aug. 10 against Sporting Kansas City.
The league said in a statement that an investigation found Petke used “unacceptable and offensive language as well as repeated confrontational misconduct towards match officials” after a Leagues Cup match against Tigres UANL last Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium.
In addition, RSL suspended Petke “from all club activities” for two weeks without pay, according to a team release. He’ll be ordered to attend anger management classes and also be “required to issue written apologies to both the League and the individual referees," the release stated.
“We hold everyone in our organization — particularly the leadership — to the highest standards and expect them to treat everyone with dignity and respect," the club said. “We have the utmost respect for the referees, PRO and Major League Soccer and will be working with the League to ensure that everyone in our organization treats all referees, players, coaches and fans with the dignity, respect, civility and professionalism that is consistent with our values. Although we appreciate Coach Petke’s passion and drive to win, it should never come at the expense of those values.”
Finally, the Leagues Cup issued Petke its own three-game suspension. Because RSL was already eliminated from this year’s tournament, his suspension will carry over to future competitions.
“There is absolutely no place for this type of behavior in our society, and Major League Soccer does not tolerate the repugnant language used by Mr. Petke,” MLS Commissioner Don Garber said in a statement. “All MLS players, staff and fans must know that these comments are unacceptable, and I am extremely disappointed that a leader of one of our clubs used such insensitive language. We are committed to providing an environment in which all individuals are treated with dignity and respect at all times.”
ESPN first reported the sanctions. The team learned of Petke’s further suspension in a meeting Tuesday that involved ownership, per the report.
The extended punishment comes three days after the club announced Petke would miss last Saturday’s game against FC Dallas due to an investigation into his conduct toward referees following last week’s 1-0 loss to Tigres UANL in the Leagues Cup game. He was shown a red card and began yelling in the face of one official before being held back by two coaches and goalkeeper Nick Rimando.
Petke said after the Tigres game that he was confused as to what led to the red card, but admitted using strong language after his card.
“All I was doing was grabbing my players,” Petke said of the exchange. "What I said afterwards would have gotten me a red card. But I said it after I got the red card.”
As acting head coach, assistant Freddy Juarez guided RSL to a scoreless draw at FC Dallas last Saturday. He was seen leading the team in training on Tuesday, with no sign of Petke.
“Freddy’s been Mike’s right-hand man this whole time, so he knows exactly Mike’s tendencies,” defender Aaron Herrera said Tuesday after training before the news broke. “Now it gives Freddy a chance to sort of add his own flair to team.”
Sebastian Saucedo said there is no difference when Juarez is on the sidelines as opposed to Petke, adding that both coaches want to see the team succeed and the players have to respect Juarez’s style of coaching.
“We need to buy in to Freddy’s style and the way he treats us,” Saucedo said. “I think we all have to be respectful in that aspect. And we saw it in Dallas. Freddy was there for us and we came out with the result. So we just have to buy in.”
This is the third time in his RSL tenure that Petke has served a suspension. He served a two-game suspension in 2018 and missed one game in 2017. Those games were also coached by Juarez, and all resulted in draws.