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June 14, 2014
Pragmatic Petke knows he won't be judged on Open Cup

Mike Petke: "I can tell you right now, I am 100 percent judged by my results in MLS from my bosses and Austria and not from the Open Cup,”
Mike Petke: "I can tell you right now, I am 100 percent judged by my results in MLS from my bosses and Austria and not from the Open Cup,”
Linda Cuttone/Sports Vue Images
By Kristian R. Dyer Contributing Editor

HANOVER, N.J. – Circumstances and priorities will dictate Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke's Starting XI for this Saturday's fourth- round tie against the New York Cosmos in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup. And the frustration is clearly evident, even as he is forced to be a pragmatist.

Without forward Thierry Henry – who likely wouldn't have played on Hofstra University's artificial surface anyway but he's away regardless with the BBC broadcast team for the World Cup – and likely no Jameion Olave as well, Petke might be forced to go with another makeshift lineup at James M. Shuart Stadium this Saturday. It certainly worked this past Sunday when the Red Bulls churned out a gritty 2-0 result at New England in what might have been one of the gutsiest coaching jobs by Petke to date.

But as much as Petke not only respects the Open Cup and his opponent on Saturday night, he realized that things are a bit out of his control as far as personnel. His team is tired and dangerously thin and he can't sacrifice the long-term vision for his defending Supporters Shield winning side.

Ever the straight shooter, Petke talked priorities as he looked ahead towards Saturday's derby tilt. But it was also clear that Red Bull ownership in Salzburg, Austria doesn't value the cup highly – it at all.

“As far as the Open Cup goes, I love the Open Cup because I'm American. I was playing the Open Cup 17 years ago. But I can tell you right now, I am 100 percent judged by my results in MLS from my bosses and Austria and not from the Open Cup,” Petke said on Friday.

“I can tell you right now if we win the Open Cup, I don't even know if I'd get a recognition from Austria because they just don't understand it, know what I mean? So that's where I have to sometimes separate myself and realize what's my job title? What's my job description? At the end of the day, the Open Cup always calls you back and I think it's a great event. I think it can be done better. In the future hopefully it becomes bigger. But it's the oldest competition and I love it.”

Petke said that “at the end of the day it's about putting out the team I need to see and the team I need to do well for me.”

He has been there and done this all before, especially as a fiery player and competitor during a storied career with this franchise.

As a player, he has seen his fair share of Open Cup results and been on the wrong side of an upset or two. But with Henry and Olave almost certainly out and Tim Cahill as well as Roy Miller on World Cup duty, it will be a tough go against the reigning North American Soccer League champions. He acknowledged it wasn't ideal.

But on the flip side, he does get the magnitude of the moment and the importance for the traveling support that will be in Hempstead, N.Y. on Saturday night. But he won't let emotions derail his pragmatism.

“Listen, like I've said many times, I understand it will be made a very big deal," he said. "Perhaps a week or two it really impacted the way I was thinking. Thierry is playing that game, we're flying Cahill back from the World Cup because we can't lose to the Cosmos. And that's the truth but I've gone completely gone the other way right now. We need to get certain guys rest, we need to see certain players like we talked early in the season.

"If we were playing the Pittsburgh Riverhounds or the Carolina Railhawks, or something, it probably would not be a debate as to who was going to play. But all of a sudden you get dragged into this thing – it's a local team. And I understand it's mostly for the supporters and an organizational thing. But at the end of the day I have to swallow all that. And I have to put out who I think I have to look at, who needs minutes, who I think can get the job done. I'm not going to put somebody out against the Cosmos who I don't think can play or do well. It's never that. It's a fact of do I rest a number of starters, which could be very likely.

“Just because it's a team like the Cosmos, now you start thinking differently. You can't do that.”
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