Rapids-Red Bulls Preview

Although it took a lot longer than expected, the New York Red Bulls finally made a commitment to coach Mike Petke after he guided them to the league’s best record in his first season.

Now Petke faces the challenge of fixing the issues that plagued the club during a one-sided, season-opening loss.

Having captain Thierry Henry back should help as the Red Bulls try to continue their run of success in home openers Saturday in Pablo Mastroeni’s coaching debut with the Colorado Rapids.

Four months after the 2013 season ended and a game into the current campaign, New York and Petke agreed on a contract extension after the 38-year-old led the Red Bulls to a league-best 59 points and first Supporters’ Shield in franchise history.

Sporting director Andy Roxburgh said Thursday that there wasn’t a timetable in securing a new deal with Petke, who is also the franchise’s all-time leader in starts and games played.

”We’ve been talking with Mike for quite some time," Roxburgh said. "It’s just a matter of the process playing out. We had Mike under contract (for 2014), but we thought it would be a good thing for Mike’s stability.”

The Red Bulls are coming off last Saturday’s 4-1 loss to Vancouver. Bradley Wright-Phillips scored for New York, which led MLS with 58 goals last season.

The Red Bulls, however, played without star forward Henry and top defender Jamison Olave because of injury concerns while playing on Vancouver’s artificial pitch. Olave will try to help tighten up a defense that surrendered its most goals since April 2012.

Henry finished with 10 goals – eight at home – and a team-high nine assists last season. He had five goals in his first four matches against Colorado before New York’s 2-0 road loss in the only meeting in 2013.

The Red Bulls haven’t lost a home opener since 2003, going 6-0-4 over that stretch. Henry put up two goals and an assist as they defeated Colorado 4-1 in the 2012 opener at Red Bull Arena.

Colorado (14-11-9 in 2013) has been in transition since coach Oscar Pareja left to take the same position with FC Dallas in January. He took over the Rapids in 2012 and guided them to their third postseason appearance in four years last season before a 2-0 loss at Seattle in the Western Conference’s knockout round.

Last Saturday, Colorado removed the interim tag from Mastroeni, who played 11-plus seasons with the Rapids before retiring in the offseason. The former captain owns several club records, including most games played.

The Rapids have brought back leading scorer Deshorn Brown (10 goals), midfielder Dillon Powers (five goals, six assists) and defender Chris Klute (team-high seven assists), though they dealt midfielder Hendry Thomas to Dallas last month.

Brown and Nathan Sturgis provided the scoring in the win over New York last season. Sturgis, who had four goals as a midfielder in 2013, is expected to play in the back this year.

Clint Irwin stymied the Red Bulls in that match, and he tied for fifth in the league with 10 shutouts while helping the Rapids allow the league’s third-fewest goals (38) last season.

"I’m not counting on one guy to save us from a defensive standpoint, and I’m not counting on any one guy to be the hero on the attacking end," Mastroeni told the league’s official website.

The Rapids have gone 0-2-1 at Red Bull Arena since it opened in 2010.