BY DAVE MARTINEZ
Mike Petke is in the midst of embarking on the first head coaching job of his career, and the former MLS standout has Robin Fraser by his side to help his transition to the top job.
That may sound like a set of unique circumstances, but it is a scenario Jason Kreis knows all too well.
The Real Salt Lake boss was thrust in a similar situation back in 2007, though his was even more extreme. He transitioned straight from the playing field to a head coaching role, and he also had Fraser as an assistant coach to help with the adjustment to the new job.
“It is almost exactly the same situation,” Kreis told SBI, “but odds are Robin (Fraser) is an even better coach than he was in 2007.”
Back then, Real Salt Lake was quickly becoming the butt of league jokes. The team was in disarray and hopelessly looking for an identity. Former RSL owner Dave Checketts decided it was time to take a major gamble. Overnight, he bestowed the position of head coach upon Kreis, transforming the veteran striker into the team’s new boss in the middle of the season.
Checketts was blasted for making the move, but over time, the gamble paid off handsomely. Kreis was able to forge an identity for the team and, with time, managed to become the youngest coach in MLS history to win the league Cup.
Can Petke achieve the same glory? That is up in the air, but with Fraser at his side, Kreis feels he already has a leg up on his new journey.
“(Fraser) could bring some of the qualities he brought to me when he first came in – even though he wasn’t an experienced MLS coach at that time,” Kreis recounted. “He was a little bit older than me and he saw the game in a different way.
“I really felt like he helped me tremendously. He would always kind of give me a different perspective on the game, management and life actually. I am really appreciative for everything he gave us in Real Salt Lake and I think he is in a great place to help New York.
“I think Mike Petke is the one who will benefit most from that decision.”
Their similar situations prompted Kreis to call Petke, offering him whatever insight he could to ease him into the coaches role.
“He reminds me of exactly where I was,” Kreis admitted. “I don’t know what I can really offer him that much. I am still a young coach myself and still learning.”
Interestingly enough, what advice was offered to the new Red Bulls boss bore a striking similarity to the tone and message delivered from the Petke camp upon his unveiling to the Red Bull media.
“Most of the stuff I offered Mike was about developing a plan, an identity, who you want to be and sticking to that regardless of the ups and downs because there are going to be a ton of ups and a ton of downs.”
It’s valuable advice from someone who has been down a very similar road.