Inside the Union: Red Bulls are down, but Union aren't counting them out

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Thierry Henry and the New York Red Bulls are winless through four games so far this season. (Julio Cortez/AP file photo)

Fortunes can reverse quickly in Major League Soccer. The Union play an eighth-place team in a nine-team Eastern Conference this week before facing a second-place squad next week.

So team manager John Hackworth was asked at his weekly news conference if he is facing a trap game this week against the eighth-place New York Red Bulls.

Never mind that the Union, now in their fourth season, have never beaten New York on the road.

The Union (2-1) are 2-6 lifetime against one of their two major rivals (D.C. United is the other) and 0-4 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, N.J., where they face New York at 3:30 p.m. Saturday.

The following week the Union visit the second-place Columbus Crew.

The Union have won two in a row. And even though New York is 0-2-2, Hackworth understands it's a little early in this 34-game schedule to write the Red Bulls' obituary.

Last week, New York lost, 1-0, at first-place Montreal and played without all-world forward Thierry Henry (knee) and center back Jamison Olave (knee). Olave and Henry have trained all week. The status of leading scorer Fabian Espindola (hamstring) and designated player Tim Cahill, who played on Tuesday in Australia with his country's national team, are unclear, a Red Bulls official said.

On Thursday, New York acquired former Harvard forward Andre Akpan from the Colorado Rapids for a conditional draft pick in 2015.

Predictably, Hackworth isn't looking beyond the Red Bulls.

"They are playing much better than their record indicates," Hackworth said. "Our records might be different, but we go in knowing they are a good team, and the quality is there."

Still, there is a positive vibe about the Union and rightly so. The Union are adding 33-year-old Brazilian midfielder Jose Kleberson, while having finally dispatched Freddy Adu.

The Union haven't played an MLS match in two weeks, having won a home friendly against Pumas UNAM on Saturday.

The game against the Red Bulls will no doubt be a major test for the Union.

All Hackworth has to do is show the team the tape of its last visit to Red Bull Arena, a 2-0 loss on July 21.

Then again, so much has changed since then. Sebastien Le Toux was a Red Bull and is now with the Union, again. Kenny Cooper scored both goals for New York, but now he's playing for FC Dallas.

Change occurs all the time in MLS. But if the Union are feeling a little too comfortable, Hackworth can remind his team of one thing that has stayed the same - the Union's record at Red Bull Arena.


Contact Marc Narducci at mnarducci@phillynews.com.