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.
-- 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