CHESTER, Pa. -- Despite tying Real Salt Lake over the weekend and hosting the Houston Dynamo this coming Saturday, the Union don't anticipate having any trouble finding the energy needed on Wednesday when they take on the rival New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena.
“Anytime we play Red Bulls, it’s a big game for us -- especially in the position we’re in,” said Union defender Sheanon Williams, whose club is winless in its last four games. "We have to start picking up points here. It’s a big game on the road, and we want to establish ourselves as a team that wins big games on the road.”
With just three days between games, fatigue could play a factor for the Union, who are coming off a 2-2 draw with Real Salt Lake. But the players believe the energy will be there.
“I don’t think it matters -- everyone here is a professional soccer player and they know you sometimes will have a quick turnaround,” forward Antoine Hoppenot said. “The players are ready and we know the Red Bulls will be ready. It'll be a fun one. There will be a lot of energy. It’ll be a good one.”
The contest means more than just a rivalry game for the Union. Riding three consecutive ties, John Hackworth’s club is looking to get back in the win column. The Union are 1-1-4 on the season. In four of those games, they surrendered the tying or go-ahead goal in the final 10 minutes of play.
“We have to get over the last few,” Hoppenot said. “I think we out-played our opponents in the past few games, and it’s tough to come out with three ties instead of a win or two. We go up to New York, it’s a rivalry game and those are always fun, but we have to start winning some games.”
The same goes for the Red Bulls. Claiming the Supporter’s Shield last season for the league’s best record, the Red Bulls, led by Peguy Luyindula’s two goals, are 0-2-4 in 2014, still in search of their first win.
They are coming off a 1-0 loss to D.C. United.
“You’re looking at a team that’s going to be highly motivated and hungry to get their first win, particularly at home,” Hackworth said. “Like a lot of teams in this league, it’s still early in the year. It’s not a finished product yet.
"Red Bull is probably suffering from that a little bit. It’s scary because they have a lot of quality, and when you do see the moments they play well, they are really a good team. We have to do a good job containing them and breaking up that rhythm. If they get going, they are really dangerous.”
Red Bull Arena hasn’t been a friendly establishment for the Union. Though Hackworth’s club earned their first point ever there last season in a scoreless draw on Aug. 31, the Union are 0-4-1 all time in Harrison, N.J.
“We’ve had a couple chances up there before where we felt we played well but gave up goals late and lost all the points,” Hackworth said. “Hopefully, the group of guys returning to Red Bull Arena will feel like it’s not impossible to get a result up there. We’re trying to concentrate on what we need to improve on and we know we will face a quality Red Bull team. It’s going to be difficult but we’re looking forward to it.”
Helping them through this Red Bull Arena curse could be a fresh attack. While the Union are still struggling to produce game-winning offense, scoring just eight goals in six matches, there was a glimmer of improvement on Saturday. With the assistance of Vincent Nogueira, Andrew Wenger scored his first goal as a member of the Union.
Maurice Edu also added his second of the year, tying Leo Fernandes for the team lead.
“It was great that Andrew got on the board, and that goal he scored was a class goal. He took a great first touch, picked his head up and slotted the ball home,” Hackworth said. “What Andrew did was show he’s capable of playing that target No. 9, putting in a large volume of work on the field and still being able to play.”