Mike Petke: “Perhaps if I was coming back to play in Red Bull Arena, it would be a heckuva of lot more significant to me.”  (Photo courtesy of Real Salt Lake)

By Michael Lewis

FrontRowSoccer.com Editor

For the first time since he took over the coaching reins at Real Salt Lake, Mike Petke will face his former team, the Red Bulls this Saturday.

Prior to the 2015 season, Petke was dismissed as New York head coach, despite great success in his first two years in the position. In 2013, the Red Bulls captured their first Supporters Shield and the next season they came within a goal of reaching MLS Cup.

Not surprisingly, the firing by then sporting director Ali Curtis stunned the soccer world.

When asked if he harbored any ill-will during Thursday’s conference call, Petke replied, “No, there are no hard feelings at all, whatsoever. It’s going to be nice to see a couple of guys that I was associated with, like Luis and Bradley, Sean Davis, who I worked with while he was coming up through the Academy.”

That would be goalkeeper Luis Robles and striker Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Real Salt Lake is coming off a 5-1 pasting by the expansion Los Angeles Football Club in the team’s 2018 home opener.

“Aside from that, there is nothing special about this game,” Petke said. “This is an opportunity and I know there is an opportunity for them. There is no significance to this because it’s New York. Perhaps if I was coming back to play in Red Bull Arena, it would be a heckuva of lot more significant to me. To me, it’s going to be a very close game and that’s the focus, that’s the mindset.”

Front Row Soccer editor Michael Lewis has covered 13 World Cups (eight men, five women), seven Olympics and 25 MLS Cups. He has written about New York City FC, New York Cosmos, the New York Red Bulls and both U.S. national teams for Newsday and has penned a soccer history column for the Guardian.com. Lewis, who has been honored by the Press Club of Long Island and National Soccer Coaches Association of America, is the former editor of BigAppleSoccer.com. He has written seven books about the beautiful game and has published ALIVE AND KICKING The incredible but true story of the Rochester Lancers. It is available at Amazon.com.