HARRISON, N.J. – It has nothing to do with the stadium or the crowd. It has nothing to do with bad luck or the weight of a growing rivalry.
The Philadelphia Union have lost every game they’ve ever played at Red Bull Arena simply because they haven’t played as well as they should have.
At least that’s the answer they stuck to following a frustrating 2-1 loss to New York loss on Saturday that dropped their record to a dismal 0-5-0 all-time at RBA (four league setbacks and one US Open Cup loss).
“There are no superstitions or anything about playing here,” right back Sheanon Williams told MLSsoccer.com. “We can beat them if we play well. And we didn’t play well. So we deserved to lose.”
Williams pointed to the fact that the Union typically have a full section of fans that make the short trip up the New Jersey Turnpike to discredit New York’s home-field advantage.
The Union’s struggles against the Red Bulls was equally baffling to Union manager John Hackworth, who blamed his team’s poor execution over any kind of hard-luck trend.
“We lacked that final pass, that final dribble, that final shot,” Hackworth said. “In the end, I don’t think anyone on my team executed well today.”
Hackworth did point out that he thought some questionable calls were made but steered clear of entirely pointing his finger at the referees. Instead, he bemoaned the “senseless turnovers” his team made, their failure to dictate possession and the “miscommunication” that led to Thierry Henry’s game-winning goal in the 81st minute.
“We can play better,” the Union manager said. “We did what needed to do in the first half. But we didn’t execute the way we’re capable of at all. And that’s really frustrating. And then to give the game away the way with less than 10 minutes to play and thinking we’d get a point – obviously we were going for [the win].”
It certainly became clear the Union never planned on settling for the draw – even if it would have been their first point ever at Red Bull Arena.
In the 61st minute, Hackworth subbed in forwards Antoine Hoppenot and Casey together, and Casey responded with his first goal in a Union uniform two minutes later.
But that goal was one of only two shots on target for the Union, who controlled less than 40 percent of possession and were on the wrong side of just about every other statistical category.
“I’m not going to say this is a hard place to play,” Williams said. “They’re a good team. They played better than us. And they won the game.”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org.