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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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Unsung LaToya Sanders’ two-way play has Mystics one game away from WNBA Finals

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Unsung LaToya Sanders’ two-way play has Mystics one game away from WNBA Finals

On a stacked Mystics team, LaToya Sanders knows her role. 

The 6-foot-2, 170-pound wisp of a center is asked to guard far bigger opponents throughout the season and still complement her teammates on the offensive end. It’s a lot to deal with. She does so without complaint. 

Sanders, the most unheralded of Washington’s five starters, did it all on Thursday night in a 103-91 WNBA semifinal win over the Las Vegas Aces at the Entertainment and Sports Arena. 

She finished with 17 points on a night when WNBA MVP Elena Delle Donne (14 points, 5 of 15 shooting) struggled given her lofty standards. Sanders also played the kind of defense that left coach Mike Thibault insisting she should have been named WNBA first or second-team All-Defense. 

“My job is probably the easiest on the team,” Sanders laughed. “My job is basically to hit wide-open jumpers and lay-ups. Pretty sure I can do those two things.”

Indeed, she was efficient hitting 7 of 10 shots and all three free throws. Sanders also had to guard Vegas’ 6-8 center Liz Cambage, a big ask given their size difference. Cambage did have 23 points and 10 rebounds, but she only took 11 shots. 

Sanders and her teammates tried to make it as hard as possible for the Aces to get the ball inside for easy baskets in their two wins this week. Washington won Game 1 of the series 97-95 on Tuesday, a game that left Cambage visibly frustrated. She also earned a technical foul in Thursday’s game on a rough play underneath the Vegas basket.  

“When you’re LaToya Sanders and you’re 6-3 and you’re relying on your long arms to guard people, she takes a beating every night,” Thibault said. “She guards Camabge and [Phoenix Mercury center Brittney] Griner and [Minnesota Lynx center Sylvia] Fowles and all those people. And every night she wins a lot of those battles.”

But the really unsung part of Sanders’ game is her mid-range jumper. Thursday she was on when some of her higher-profile teammates like Delle Donne didn’t quite have their shot dropping. 

Sanders had six points in the third quarter as the two teams battled back and forth in a tight game and that set the stage for the decisive run that tilted the game toward the Mystics. She also had a hot start to the night with two baskets in the first quarter. 

“[Sanders is] a really good player. She's just on a team with so many other good players that she doesn't get as many shots,” Vegas guard Kelsey Plum said. “But she plays her role as good as anyone in the league. She's a vet. She rebounds the crap out of the ball. I just think that she does a great job for them. Everyone made us pay."

Thibault referenced a rebound Sanders grabbed in traffic to stifle a Vegas possession when they were trying to get the lead under 10 points in the fourth quarter. Instead, Washington was able to work the clock at the offensive end and score a knockout blow. It’s the little things that matter most when a team is pushing for a championship. The Mystics are one step closer. 

“Cambage is a talent, she’s a big girl,” Sanders said. “I just do what I can to try to make it difficult for her, but she’s going to hit some buckets here and there. I try to dish it out, but not take it.”  

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Orioles Roundup: Trey Mancini stays hot in 8-4 home loss to Blue Jays

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Orioles Roundup: Trey Mancini stays hot in 8-4 home loss to Blue Jays

In a fitting tribute to most games this season in Baltimore, Trey Mancini had a terrific day at the plate, but the pitching staff allowed too many home runs and the O's ended up losing.

Here's everything you need to know about the Orioles.

Player Updates:

OF Trey Mancini hasn't slowed down at all for the Orioles, turning in a 4-for-4 night to tie his career high in hits. He's hitting .286 with 34 home runs during his breakout season.

OF Austin Hays enjoyed a banner night, hitting his first home run of the season and making one of the year's highlight catches, robbing a home run well over the centerfield wall.

SP Gabriel Ynoa allowed three runs in 6.1 innings. He didn't walk anyone and allowed just six hits, but he also only struck out one batter despite pitching into the seventh inning, and two of the hits allowed were home runs.

Injuries

RP Hunter Harvey, biceps, sidelined, day-to-day

RP Josh Rogers, elbow, 60-Day IL, out indefinitely 

SP Alex Cobb, back, 60-Day IL, 2020

Coming Up:

Friday, 9/20: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Saturday, 9/21: Mariners at Orioles, 7:05 p.m., Camden Yards

Sunday, 9/22: Mariners at Orioles, 1:05 p.m., Camden Yards