Red Bulls remove interim tag, make Mike Petke coach

New York Red Bulls' Jan Gunnar Solli, left,

New York Red Bulls' Jan Gunnar Solli, left, and Real Salt Lake's Fabian Espindola vie for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match in Salt Lake City. (March 17, 2012) (Credit: AP)

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HARRISON, N.J. - When he played for the Red Bulls, Mike Petke wore his heart on his sleeve and was one of the most popular players in club history.

Yesterday, the Bohemia native was named coach of the Red Bulls. Petke's hiring ended a 75-day search after Hans Backe was told he wouldn't be asked to return.

Petke, who turns 37 Wednesday, is a St. John the Baptist H.S. graduate. After Backe was let go, he took over as interim coach and impressed sporting director Andy Roxburgh. Petke's MLS playing career spanned 13 seasons beginning with the MetroStars in 1998 and ending with the Red Bulls in 2010. He has been an assistant coach since.

"If they decided to go with someone else, I never would have had a problem," Petke said. "But I believed that I was always more than ready. I'm more than capable."

"He knows the league and he is absolutely passionate about the club," Roxburgh said. "All of these things added up to making Mike an appropriate choice. I always thought I would like to have a young and hungry coach, who is adaptable."

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