CHESTER, Pa. – The Philadelphia Union are well aware of the New York Red Bulls’ struggles to start the season.
And because of that, they believe they might see a desperate team when the two rivals square off at Red Bull Arena on Saturday (3:30 pm ET, NBC Sports Network, LIVE chat on MLSsoccer.com).
“They’re feeling a lot of pressure right now, and there are a lot of questions being asked within their team from the outside and on the inside,” Union midfielder Michael Lahoud said. “So there might be a little bit of desperation on their part.”
And how will the Union (2-1-0) deal with the possible desperation of an opponent that’s winless in four games and hasn’t scored in the last 253 minutes? By taking it right to them and aggressively trying to capture their third straight league win.
“For us, I don’t think we’re going to go there and just sit back and try to defend for 90 minutes,” Lahoud added. “I think it’s going to be a game that’s going to allow us to play at times, but it’s going to be, more importantly, a game that we have to manage. The longer we can manage the game, the more I think that desperation, that frustration in them, will come out, giving us a chance to get a result there.”
Union manager John Hackworth downplayed the idea that the Red Bulls will feel more pressure than usual for Saturday’s match but acknowledged that it’s nice to be on the other side of the rivalry for a change.
In the past, the Red Bulls have usually been the team playing well and expected to win against the Union. And they mostly have done just that, owning a 6-2-0 all-time record vs. Philly and a perfect 4-0-0 mark at Red Bull Arena.
But perhaps the teams’ differing trajectories to start the 2013 season could shift the course of the rivalry and help Philly pick up the franchise’s first-ever win at Red Bull Arena.
“We need to get a result there and we haven’t done that,”Hackworth said. “That does weigh on everyone’s mind. When we set a goal to be the first team in our organization to do that, that’s a motivating factor for sure.”
Lahoud noted that it’s important “not to get carried away” by the Union’s 2-1-0 start and the Red Bulls’ 0-2-2 record and said that he “understands it’s still going to be a tough place to play,” calling the Red Bulls one of the most talented teams in the league on paper.
But if the Union are able to use the confidence gained from their previous two wins to continue their upward climb – while further burying the Red Bulls in the standings – that’s exactly what they’ll do.
“I think for them, they’re looking for anything to turn their season around to take the pressure off themselves,” Lahoud said. “And, for us, I think it’s a massive opportunity to make a statement to a rival and to the rest of the league saying, ‘Hey, we’re for real. And we’re going to go into a tough environment and show you guys we’re for real.’”
Dave Zeitlin covers the Union for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.