Photo by Howard C. Smith/ISIphotos.com
By FRANCO PANIZO
The hot topic surrounding MLS for much of the past week was how its clubs were struggling in the CONCACAF Champions League, and New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke had his turn to touch on the subject on Tuesday.
Speaking to reporters via his weekly teleconference call, Petke stated that he has been impressed by MLS clubs’ performances in the CONCACAF tournament in recent years. Petke acknowledged that MLS teams (which are subject to a cap and other unique league guidelines) still have some work to do to before one of them finally wins the competition, but also said that they have shown progress despite the fact that the last three MLS sides in the current competition were eliminated in the quarterfinals last week.
“I think that MLS is getting there,” said Petke, who will guide his Red Bulls into the CONCACAF Champions League this fall. “In the recent couple years with (Real) Salt Lake in the Champions League, they showed they could’ve almost won it, LA (Galaxy) has done well, and I think that we’re getting there. We’re an 18-year-old league with different restraints and different rules and regulations than a league like Mexico.
“I think that we’re getting there and I’m very impressed with every time I watch these MLS teams go into these tough environments and play. It doesn’t always work out, sometimes it does. I’m impressed with how MLS teams have done for the most part. It’s just to continue to move forward really and prepare for these big games internationally.”
Asked about what MLS teams could do to further improve in the regional tournament and at long last move on to the FIFA Club World Cup, Petke did not have a direct response. The second-year manager reiterated, however, that he had been encouraged by some of what he had seen last week.
“I watched the entire San Jose game against Toluca and I was very impressed with San Jose on the road,” said Petke. “They were good defensively. Of course, they gave up a lot of crosses, but that’s okay because they were confident in their ability to defend it and going forward they were very dangerous.
“I think it was a bit unfortunate in the penalty shootout. It’s almost like a coin flip.”
What do you think of Petke’s comments? Agree that MLS clubs are making progress? How do you see the Red Bulls doing in the competition in the fall?
Share your thoughts below.