New-look Red Bulls remove interim tag off Petke

New-look Red Bulls remove interim tag off Petke

HARRISON, N.J. (AP) While the leadership of the New York Red Bulls continued a tireless search to find a new coach, the interim, Mike Petke, remained patient.

He persevered through it all, even after not receiving a formal interview for the job.

But his appreciation for the position he was already in, and his respect for the organization overall, was rewarded on Thursday. That's when Petke, 36, had the interim label removed, and officially became coach.

``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. I always put this club ahead of me in everything I do.''

The road was long and not easy for Petke. He was first promoted to interim after Hans Backe's contract was not renewed following the end of New York's season. He then went about his business as the franchise attempted to hire Gary McAllister and Paulo Sousa.

Sousa, 42, had been close to filling the position, but he told The Associated Press on Thursday ``we didn't reach a final agreement. This sometimes happens in football and we need to turn a page and focus on the future.''

Sousa, who has managed British clubs Queens Park Rangers, Swansea and Leicester, left his job at Hungarian club Videoton earlier this month citing family reasons after winning three trophies inside two years.

Sousa said ``this will be a fantastic opportunity for another manager.''

That will be Petke, who was quickly promoted because the team is already in training in Bradenton, Fla. The MLS season is set to begin March 3.

Red Bulls sporting director Andy Roxburgh said Petke is very passionate about the club, and has shown the leadership and organizational qualities to be coach. Petke served as an assistant the last two seasons, after playing for the franchise as a defender for the MetroStars from 1998-2002 and later the Red Bulls from 2008-2010.

``From the minute he took over as the interim coach, Mike has been enthusiastic and organized,'' Roxburgh said. ``Mike is very experienced in the ways of MLS. If we brought in a coach from Europe, that might not be the case. Mike knows the league and he's passionate about this organization and team. All of those things add up to make him the appropriate choice.''

The Red Bulls went 16-9-9 last season, finishing with 57 points in the tough Eastern Conference. Petke has a talented roster, but a tough chore ahead of him, especially considering there is a thought out there that he is a replacement hire.

``I cannot believe in my mind that Red Bull needed to rush something, just because we opened training camp,'' Petke said. ``I think my interview process began when they turned to me and asked me to take the reins in November. I think Andy saw me in action. I'm not the least bit slighted that they might have looked elsewhere before me.''

Roxburgh explained the flirtation with those experienced coaches.

``It was very important to see all options,'' Roxburgh said. ``I had spoken to a number of people about the position. For whatever reason, it didn't work out. But I always thought I would like to have a young and hungry coach, who is adaptable. As we went through the process, we didn't rush anything we did. I did have a deadline that I wanted to have a coach by the time the players came to camp. The players had to know.''

The Red Bulls, who have never won a league title, were eliminated in the first round of last season's playoffs by DC United.

``Everyone is behind Mike, no question,'' Roxburgh said. ``We told the players this morning and they were very supportive. Mike is one of their guys. He's a pro. He's humble and hard working. He has to start somewhere. He brings so many qualities to the job.''

If nothing else, Petke appears ready for the challenge.

``I know the players,'' he said. ``I've been around this team for a while. I'm not going to do anything differently. I'm going to do what's in the best interest of the club.''


AP Sports Writer Rob Harris contributed to this report from London.

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Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game


Caps recall goalie Pheonix Copley after Braden Holtby 'tweaked something' in Dallas game

You thought the Caps had a goalie rotation before, but now they have added a third netminder in the mix.

Pheonix Copley has been recalled from the Hershey Bears and will backup Philipp Grubauer for Washington's game in Detroit, the team announced Thursday.

The move comes in response to an injury concern for Braden Holtby.


Dallas Stars forward Remi Elie collided with Holtby midway through the third period on Tuesday as Holtby was extending to make a save. Holtby reacted awkwardly to the collision and could be seen skating and flexing his leg during the next stoppage.

With only nine games remaining in the regular season, Holtby's injury is a major concern. Given his recent struggles, the final few weeks of the season offered a chance for Holtby to get his game back to form. Just where his game will be when he is 100-percent healthy again is certainly a storyline to watch.


The good news for Washington, however, is that Grubauer is perhaps more ready this season to lead the team than he ever has been and confidence in him around the team should be high.

Since Thanksgiving, Grubauer has played in 22 games with a 17-11-4 record, a .939 save percentage, 1.85 GAA and two shutouts. No goalie who has played in 20 games or more has registered a better save percentage or GAA. He will certainly be looked upon to carry the load until Holtby returns. Whether this means he now has the inside track on starting in the playoffs, however, remains to be seen. That will depend largely on just when Holtby is ready to return and how Grubauer plays down the stretch.

Copley, 26, has gone 14-16-6 with two shutouts, a .898 save percentage and 2.86 GAA in 38 games in Hershey this season. He was originally signed as an undrafted free agent by Washington in 2014. He was traded to the St. Louis Blues in the package that netted the Caps T.J. Oshie, but was reacquired by Washington in Feb. 2017 in a trade deadline deal that included Kevin Shattenkirk.

At the time, it was believed Copley would be the team's backup for the 2017-18 season with Grubauer likely headed to Vegas in the expansion draft. Vegas, however, took Nate Schmidt instead which led to Copley spending the season in Hershey. The Caps now will be happy for the extra goalie depth for as long as Holtby's health remains a concern.

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Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

Washington Wizards

Wizards to give fans Phil Chenier emoji signs and 1978 title shirts for special weekend

This weekend was already going to be special for Washington Wizards fans. Now they will get souvenirs to remember it.

As part of their celebration of Phil Chenier's legendary career and the 40th anniversary of their 1978 NBA championship, the Wizards are handing out emoji signs on Friday night and commemorative t-shirts on Sunday. All fans in attendance will receive a giveaway.


The emoji sign has Chenier's face on it and will be handed out for the March 23 game against the Nuggets. Chenier will have his jersey retired at halftime during the game. 

The emoji sign is presented by NBC Sports Washington. You're welcome, Authentic Fans.


The shirts will be given out on Sunday when the Wizards host the New York Knicks. 

Here's the front...

And the back...

Let's take a closer look at that back...

As a reporter who has received many giveaways over the years at pro sports stadiums, these are uniquely awesome. Should be a great weekend for Wizards fans. See you at the arena.


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