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February 11, 2013
Pearce hails hiring Petke as coach brings Red Bulls to the 'next level'

By Kristian R. Dyer Contributing EDitor

HARRISON, N.J. – The Red Bulls have taken things to the “next level” according to defender Heath Pearce, who is optimistic that the club has turned a corner in its development.

Speaking to the media on Monday afternoon at Red Bull Arena, Pearce is excited for the upcoming season even if he is slightly vague in why he is so optimistic.

What the MLS veteran and former national team defender sees around the Red Bulls is somewhat of a culture change, including a greater emphasis on what he perceives as the club taking care of its players. Pearce sees a positive influence at the top of the club in Gérard Houllier, who last fall was appointed as Head of Global Soccer for Red Bull. In addition, new general manager Jérôme de
Bontin and recently appointed head coach Mike Petke are all positive moves, according to Pearce.

“They’ve made a firm commitment on taking care of the players. They’re whole focus and a lot of their planning is based around making sure the players have everything they need so their only focus is game day,” HE said.

“Not to say that they didn’t do that before but it’s truly what they’re saying as well as doing and that’s a major aspect.”

One such example, according to Pearce, is that players’ wives, girlfriends and families were able to accompany the Red Bulls down to pre-season training in Florida. He also has seen a greater commitment to building a family atmosphere around the team.

Of course, nearly all new regimes whether coaching or in management are greeted with optimism so Pearce’s enthusiasm might just be a reaction to a new approach or style from the Red Bulls.

Over the past few weeks, Pearce watched the drama unfold as the Red Bulls were linked to several high profile head coaches with European pedigrees before deciding on Petke. A former player who played for New York in both the MetroStars and Red Bulls kit, Petke is a legend to the team’s passionate fan base. The move to hire Petke was hailed by designated players Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry and Pearce was no different in his assessment.

Even as Petke served as the team’s interim head coach the past few weeks before being officially made permanent in the role, Pearce saw a man who was driven to help the club succeed.

“He wanted what was best for his club and to have a guy like that be your head coach is a positive thing because you know he’s always going to put the club first. He’s got that passion and that attachment to the club that you know he wants that success here,” he said.

“On the most simple of levels, Mike is a motivator. He made his career as player who is a hard-nosed, kind of a hard ass guy on the field. You know we’re going to get up every game and have that pressure as well as that motivation from a guy who helped for a long time build this league up.”

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