Thank you, Mike Petke
November 8, 2010

On April 17, 1998, MetroStars coach Alfonso Mondelo made a lineup decision. With the team mired in a 0-3 slump, he benched fan favorite Rhett Harty for unheralded rookie Mike Petke. The rest, as they say, is history.

The MetroStars shutout Chicago in that game, and Petke earned a place in the starting lineup that he would not relinquish for the next five years. Players around him would rotate at absurd rates, the team would go from the lowest lows (1999) to relative highs (2000), but one thing was constant -- #12, with his bleach blond hair, anchoring the backline. Well, except that time when he dabbled in dying it red.

But it wasn't just Petke's ever-presence that endeared him to fans. It wasn't just his no-nonsense tackling and hard work. It definitely weren't his goals, which were few and far between (yet somehow some of them turned out to be big: his first, a bomb against New England in an epic 5:3 thriller; Metro's first overtime gamewinner, in DC of all places; we'll get to the other huge one later). It was that... Petke got it. He understood it. He was one of us.

In the 15 seasons, we've had 235 players wear the team colors. Of all of those, if you had to name one who had shown the most appreciation for the team's supporters, it was Petke.

We cheered him. He loved it. We booed him. He took it in stride. He embraced the fans from Day 1 and always, always, always made a point to acknowledge them. He knew we cared; he cared with us.

Of course, the defining moment came in 2000. Metro was playing Colorado, a few days after Tampa's Mamadou Diallo broke Mike Ammann's ribs. Petke stood up for his fallen teammate, miraculously scored a rare goal, and then showed the now-iconic "Crime of the Century" t-shirt. We couldn't have been prouder: then, or now, when remembering the moment.

He left after the 2002 season, came back in 2009, endured another season of horror, and was part of the relative highs of 2010. When Red Bull Arena opened, it was Petke who ended up scoring the gamewinner against Santos. When Juan Pablo Angel scored what turned out to be the last goal of the season, it was Petke into whose arms he jumped.

We're not saying goodbye, Mike; we know you'll be around. We're saying thank you. Thank you for everything.

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