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October 27, 2013
Petke, who bleeds Red Bulls' colors, basks in the team's success

Mike Petke: “These guys gave me everything [that] they have this year to end the season. I'm at a loss for words."
Mike Petke: “These guys gave me everything [that] they have this year to end the season. I'm at a loss for words."
Keith Furman/First Row Photos
By Kristian R. Dyer Conbtributing Editor

HARRISON, N.J. – The smile was wide across Mike Petke's face as he lifted the Supporters Shield over his head, following his team's 5-2 win over the Chicago Fire to give the Red Bulls its first ever piece of hardware in 18 years.

Petke stood near the South Ward, in front of the team's rabidly hardcore fans, and just soaked it in for a moment. Here he was, the native son of Long Island who was drafted by the team in 1998 and had two stints with the team as a player. Now as head coach, the man who bled MetroStars red and black and now Red Bull, had his hands on his hips. Then he took the Supporters Shield and lifted it over his head.

In his first year as a head coach, a man who many had been written off as the likely first manager to be fired instead was basking in his team's finish atop the table.

Petke called it a “wonderful moment.”

“This is a great moment for our franchise, for our players, for our staff. For our supporters especially. It has been a long time, a long time coming. These guys earned it; it doesn't matter what is written, it doesn't matter how they played in certain moments,” Petke said. “These guys gave me everything [that] they have this year to end the season. I'm at a loss for words. As a professional, aside from my family life and personal life, I'm talking about my career as a player and as a coach, this is by far – to know – the best moment.”

This franchise has come close before. In 2000, the MetroStars captured the Eastern Conference title for the first time in their history, but fell to the Fire in the playoffs a game short of the MLS Cup. In 2008, an incredible run through the playoffs ended in their first MLS Cup appearance, where they lost 3-1 to the Columbus Crew.

In 2010, they were again Eastern Conference champions but were bounced out of the playoffs in the first round.

It was something that didn't escape this team, even those knew to the organization and perhaps new to embrace the futility that has marked the past 18 years.

Left back David Carney, signed before the MLS roster freeze deadline, said that Petke had addressed the team “several times over the past few weeks” about this franchise's less than stellar track record in the past. He reminded them that the trophy case was empty.

He told them that something had to be done about it.

“I don't think it is going to fully hit me for a couple hours. I feel like over the last few weeks the pressure and the stress I felt on my shoulders – that I put myself under – I feel like to be honest with you I can handle anything in life now,” Petke said. “It was tough, a very emotional last few weeks. I kept having this recurring thought and I tried to explain it to my wife and I just didn't want to let down the fan base, I didn't want to let down the organization being so close after so many years of heartache I guess you could say. It was a tough two weeks. It hasn't sunk in right now.”
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