New York Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke (pictured) played with the club in the 2009-10 CONCACAF Champions League. (Photo courtesy of the New York Red Bulls)
HARRISON, New Jersey -- Given what the schedule has in store for the 2014-15 CONCACAF Champions League (CCL) qualifier New York Red Bulls later this year, head coach Mike Petke pulled off a rarity last week.
He used the same Starting XI for consecutive games -- in the 4-0 home triumph over the Houston Dynamo on April 23 and in a 1-1 draw at the Columbus Crew three days later.
"The performance we had [against the Dynamo] was very good," said Petke, who appeared in both of the Red Bulls 2009-10 CCL preliminary round games against W Connection as a player. "We were very happy with it. I talked to almost all the players to see where they were physically and they all felt good. They really did all feel good."
Petke had never attempted such an approach with such a short gap between two Major League Soccer games.
"Obviously it’s not easy to play on such short rest, but it’s something that I haven’t done since I’ve became the coach," he noted, adding that it was “Just a gut feeling to stick with these guys. I think it paid off in the Columbus game.”
The Red Bulls probably won't have such a luxury later this year because their soccer plate will be overflowing. It will start in June with the U.S. Open Cup and will continue during the summer in the CONCACAF Champions League.
Petke, 38, realizes that resting his players throughout the season in order to avoid injuries and burnout is essential. He currently has a logjam with two regulars pushing to get into the lineup.
Australia international Tim Cahill is expected to be ready for selection for Sunday's game at FC Dallas after missing three matches due a hamstring injury. With the team playing so well -- the Red Bulls have accrued seven out of a possible nine points with a 2-1-0 record – Petke is challenged to find room for this impact player.
"Tim is a very valuable part of this group," expressed Petke. "It's easier to put someone like Tim in when he is 100 percent healthy. So whether it be in the midfield or up front, there should always will be a place for Tim, whether that's off the bench or to start."
Jonny Steele was the regular left-sided midfielder in 2013, but he has become Eric Alexander's backup.
"Eric has really came into his own and he’s playing some really good soccer," Petke said. "So, at the moment I don’t think it’s wise to switch in that particular situation."
Down the road, Petke has some plans for Steele, a veteran of CCL play as a member of the Puerto Rico Islanders.
“We need to get people rest and that’s definitely be coming into place very soon,” he said. “So, it’s good to know that we have two, three options."
The New York Red Bulls qualified for the next edition of the CCL as the 2013 Major League Soccer Supporters’ Shield winner.