Real Salt Lake cuts ties with head coach Mike Petke

On Sunday night, a day before he was slated to return to work, Real Salt Lake fired head coach Mike Petke and replaced him with assistant coach Freddy Juarez, who was named interim coach for the remainder of the 2019 season.

The move comes in the wake of a postgame incident involving Petke following RSL's 1-0 loss to Tigres of Mexico in the new Leagues Cup in July 24.

Upset with the officiating, Petke confronted Panamanian referee John Pitti and his assistants. Pitti issued a red card to Petke, who continued to berate him. The Athletic reported that Petke repeatedly called Pitti a “motherf***ing puto” (“puto” being a Spanish-language homophobic slur) and even used the phrase in a note sent to Pitti in the officiating room.

Three separate suspensions followed:

-- Petke was suspended pending an investigation into the incident for RSL’s match against FC Dallas (0-0 tie) on July 27.

-- Petke earned a three-game MLS suspension, three-game Leagues Cup suspension and a $25,000 fine from MLS for “unacceptable and offensive language as well as repeated confrontational misconduct towards match officials.” (MLS had previously disciplined Petke three times, twice for public criticism of officials and once for improperly interacting with game officials.)

-- RSL also suspended him without pay for two weeks and required him to attend anger management courses. That work suspension was slated to end on Monday.

In its next two games, RSL beat NYCFC, 3-1, and Sporting KC, 2-1. Saturday's comeback win thanks to a pair of Corey Baird goals left RSL in sixth place in the Western Conference, just two points behind second-place Seattle. RSL started the season with a 1-4-1 record but is 10-5-3 since then.

RSL issued a statement on Sunday night about its decision to fire Petke:

"At Real Salt Lake, we have the privilege to represent our great community and fans here locally and on a national and global basis.  We hold all of our coaches, players, executives and staff to the highest standards of professionalism.  As an organization, it is vital that everyone, particularly our leadership, reflects and embodies our core values and the values of our community, treating all people with respect, civility and professionalism. Moreover, throughout our 15-year history, we have championed diversity, acceptance and inclusion throughout our organization, our stadiums and our community.  This is a responsibility that we take very seriously.

"On Tuesday, July 30, after an investigation and in conjunction with Major League Soccer, the club levied the steepest sanctions ever imposed on an MLS coach when we suspended Mike Petke without pay for two weeks in addition to his three-match suspension in MLS and $25,000 fine. After further deliberations and a series of constructive discussions internally and with various members of our community, we have concluded, pursuant to his employment agreement, to immediately terminate Mike Petke’s employment."

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14 comments about "Real Salt Lake cuts ties with head coach Mike Petke".
  1. Bob Ashpole, August 12, 2019 at 9:02 a.m.

    The firing was well deserved. Petke's conduct compelled his firing. 

  2. Wooden Ships replied, August 12, 2019 at 9:52 a.m.

    Agreed. Wish him well and I hope he finds happiness outside of soccer. No point in being miserable.

  3. Bob Ashpole replied, August 12, 2019 at 12:54 p.m.

    WS, couldn't agree more. Life is too short to go through it angry.

    I am a believer in playing with passion, but joy works much better than anger.


  4. Wallace Wade, August 12, 2019 at 10:57 a.m.

    What a moron! They basically were left with no choice. He called his own shot

  5. frank schoon, August 12, 2019 at 11:13 a.m.

    No excuse for that. I've always believed there is a lot more to criticize your players on than what the refs do . A good way to tell your youth team to see the bigger picture  is to say before you criticize the ref about a mistaken call , you make ten times the mistakes a ref makes during the game...That should shut them up...

  6. Wooden Ships replied, August 12, 2019 at 2:07 p.m.

    That’s the way I was too Frank. 

  7. beautiful game replied, August 12, 2019 at 3:58 p.m.

    F.S. "...there's more to criticize players for what they do?" IMHO, you're missing the big picture. Players will do anything possible knowing that certain refs will let players escape being carded. If the refs don't do their job, the players will be more aggregious.

  8. frank schoon replied, August 12, 2019 at 5:46 p.m.

    BG,  This article is all about how the coache's reaction to a mistake made by the ref. And I'm saying is to better spend your time improving your players who make a multitude more in mistakes. Your beef is something for  the USSF to consider if you think it is all that bad.... 

  9. beautiful game, August 12, 2019 at 3:54 p.m.

    So Petke gets fired because he lost control...what about the culture of officiating that has lost all common sense and control. Why tackles from behind that go unpunished? What about the 'selective' enforcement of LOTG that go unpunished. If the current officiating is satisfactory to the Petke justice fingerpointers, than Petke will not be the last to lose his job because of the global dysfunctional officiating enabled by FIFA. Watched first 25-minutes of Sunday's Atlanta v NYCFC, and the congenital whistle swallower Marrufo couldn't bring himself to card three separate players for aggregious fouling. Marrufo is a disgrace and a big part of this MLS incompetent referee culture.

  10. R2 Dad replied, August 12, 2019 at 8:23 p.m.

    BG, I tend to agree, but I would suggest you discriminate between leagues and confederations when referring to the "incompetent referee culture". Every referee that makes it to that level in the US has been formally assessed at least a dozen times, with updated reviews every year, guidance, training on form, communication, body language, etc. Some leagues are better able to instill uniformity among officials, some leagues have better VAR implementations, and the overall quality of those officials is represented by the number of FIFA officials each confederation provides: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FIFA_International_Referees_List#Referees_by_Association
    Not surprisingly, we are not in the top 20 countries providing/qualifying FIFA referees. When referring to MLS, it would be prudent to note we have a relatively new league (run by a powerful but non-soccer stuffed shirt) who has a good idea about TV contracts but no appreciation for officiating/LOTG, etc. The FA (USSF) that is supposedly administering the game in this country refuses to tamp down Garber influence on what constitutes proper officiating, and I point to previous MLS finals as proof of that undue influence.
    On top of all that, IFAB/FIFA has dropped a bomb on the officiating world ahead of the Women's World Cup with their new interpretations (not yet implemented in MLS) that have proven confusing, contentious and distracting--all the qualities officials try to avoid when administering a match.
    Yes, the officiating has been woeful this year, but for many different reasons. Lumping referees all together only further confuses the matter.

  11. Bob Ashpole replied, August 13, 2019 at 8:08 a.m.

    BG, firing Petke is not vindication of the official. 

    Petke wasn't fired for being upset with the official. He was fired for what he did and said while he was upset with the official.

  12. uffe gustafsson, August 12, 2019 at 5:10 p.m.

    The use of the word Puto have no place in soccer.
    and he should know better.
    if now our Mexican fans in the stand would stop that as well, that would be a step forward in our evolution as human been.

  13. frank schoon replied, August 14, 2019 at 1:08 p.m.

    Uffe, dream on , I don't think that word or rather expressing will be discarded through PC. That word has been used so often and so long by hispanic culture that I don't foresee the demise of it anytime soon

  14. Mark Lange, August 13, 2019 at 6:58 p.m.

    Would call him BAKA in Japan, which means fool. When you are the head coach or any coach, you have to show restrInt and good judgement!

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