Felipe: “We’ve got to get back on track.” (Jay Biggerstaff/USA TODAY Sports)
By Michael Lewis
Even though the Philadelphia Union is desperately seeking its first win two months into the season, the Red Bulls cannot afford to take Saturday night’s game in Chester, Pa. lightly.
If they do, then they will be giving three points away.
After coming off a disappointing 2-0 defeat at Sporting Kansas City Wednesday night, the Red Bulls (5-4-1, 16 points) will be looking to avoid losing to a team that is winless in eight games (0-4-4, 4) at Talen Energy Stadium.
Philly is in last and 11th place in the Eastern Conference, so a loss to their foes, even a road match, would be devastating against a side that is ultra-down on its luck.
“We can’t mope about the last game,” Red Bulls head coach Jesse Marsch told reporters after Wednesday’s game. “This game, we’re obviously disappointed but we’ve got to figure out a way to regenerate and refocus and go after a big game in Philly.”
“We’ve got to get back on track,” he said.
The Union has always posed a difficult opponent for the Red Bulls. Last year, it seemed every time the you turned around, Philly was overcoming New York’s two-goal lead or scoring an upset in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup.
“They’re always prepared and they’re desperate, so it’s not going to be easy,” Marsch said.
Added Felipe: “They’re a team that started a little slow, they have good players and it’s always great to play against that opponent – they love to play against us and we love to play against them. It’s just going to be a fight on Saturday but we’re going to be up for the challenge.”
On Wednesday, Marsch decided to rest several regulars, including striker Bradley Wright-Phillips and playmaking midfielder and captain Sacha Kljestan, who both came on in the second half.
There were a few reasons for the strategy
First, the Red Bulls are playing three games in eight days.
And second, Marsch realized Saturday’s encounter was much more vital in the standings. By losing in Kansas City, the Red Bulls missed an opportunity to accrue three points, but an Eastern Conference opponent did not earn them.
That is not the case Saturday.
Marsch said the Red Bulls were going to “get what we think are going to be some important intra-conference points.”
“We know that is always a challenge because Philly, as much as they’re having a tough year, they always play well against us,” he added. “They’re always prepared and they’re desperate, so it’s not going to be easy, so we’ll have to figure out which guys from here can regenerate and we’ll have some fresher legs ready to go for that one.”