Mike Petke not feeling nostalgic about going back to Red Bull Arena — where he coached three years — as head man of Real Salt Lake

(Rick Egan | The Salt Lake Tribune). Real Salt Lake head coach Mike Petke walks the sidelines during MLS soccer action between Real Salt Lake and Atlanta United at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Friday, May 24, 2019.

Sandy • Mike Petke spent his formative years in Middletown, New Jersey, a mere 70 miles from Harrison, where the New York Red Bulls play their home games. After a three-year stint at Southern Connecticut State, he started his Major League Soccer career with the Red Bulls, then called the MetroStars.

Petke’s career was bookended by stops with the Red Bulls, where he spent his final two seasons before his retirement in 2010. But his coaching career started much like his playing career did: In New York, with the Red Bulls. Now he’s the head man in Salt Lake, continuing his evolution as a tactician, motivator, manager of personalities and everything in between.

It’s been two-plus years since Petke has been involved in any way with the Red Bulls, but RSL’s coach will make his return to Red Bull Arena for the first time Saturday since his coaching days ended there. Salt Lake plays the Red Bulls on the road to end a stretch of three games in nine days.

Petke, however, is not the type of person who gives in to nostalgia.

“It’s going to be a good moment,” Petke said last week. “But there’s no — any cliche you want to throw out — getting back at a team or a tear in my eye or something. No. It’s another game at a place that I’m familiar with.”


Real Salt Lake’s two-week break won’t, in reality, be quite as long.

RSL is scheduled to play Los Angeles Football Club in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup on June 11, the team announced Friday. The game is scheduled for 8 p.m. and will be held at Rio Tinto Stadium.

The game against LAFC occurs right in the middle of a two-week break between Major League Soccer competition for Salt Lake. After Saturday’s matchup against the New York Red Bulls, RSL doesn’t play another MLS game until June 22.

Historically, the winner of the U.S. Open Cup qualifies for a berth in the CONCACAF Champions League tournament. But that stipulation has not yet been announced.

He’s very familiar with it. As a coach in New York, his record ended at 34 wins, 25 losses and 23 draws. Coincidentally, Petke has played the exact number of games (82) with RSL as he did with the Red Bulls. His Salt Lake record stands at 34-35-13.

So maybe there’s something to Petke not wanting to make a big thing out of his coaching stint in New York. After Saturday’s game, he will have officially coached more games in Salt Lake City than in The Big Apple.

But Petke will take some time to meet with old friends and supporters from his days manning the Red Bulls sidelines, he said.

“Obviously the supporters there who I’ve always had a great relationship with and admiration for, it’s going to be nice to see them,” Petke said. “I’ll give them a clap and a wave.”

Petke has more than 90 people attending the game, he said, including his parents, his sister and her family, his in-laws and various close friends from Middletown. He said that after the game, he will stay behind and spend a couple of extra days in New York and New Jersey to spend some time with them, seeing as how RSL as a team has time off after Saturday.

Petke acknowledged that if he had gone to Red Bull Arena sooner — i.e. his very first season with RSL — he likely would have felt differently about seeing his old stoping grounds. But it seems those days are past him now and all he wants to focus on is those three points.

“Up until the final whistle, it’s the team, it’s my staff,” Petke said. “That’s it.”


At Red Bull Arena, Harrison, New Jersey

Kickoff » Saturday 5 p.m. MDT


Radio » 700 AM

Last meeting » RSL 1, RBNY 0 (March 17, 2018)

Records » RSL 6-7-1, New York 6-5-3

About New York » On a three-game winless streak against RSL (two losses, one draw). … Looking to extend its unbeaten streak to four games after most recent win. … Brian White leads team with three goals, while Michael Amir Murillo and Daniel Royer have four assists apiece.

About RSL » Damir Kreilach will miss the game due to yellow card accumulation. … Coming off a loss that snapped a three-game win streak. … Will go on a two-week break from MLS competition after Saturday. … Slated to play LAFC in the U.S. Open Cup on June 11 or 12. ... Jefferson Savarino was called up to Venezuela for Copa America.