The Union face their biggest challenge on a number of fronts when they visit the Los Angeles Galaxy in Saturday's Major League Soccer matchup at the Home Depot Center.
Besides the fact that the Galaxy are 4-0-1 this year, the Union will face Los Angeles without their leading goal-scorer, Sebastien Le Toux. He is out with what the team calls a mild left knee injury suffered in Tuesday's 2-1 loss to the host New York Red Bulls in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament.
As if it won't be difficult enough playing without the striker who has scored five of the team's six goals, the Union (1-3 in MLS games) must also find a way to stop Edson Buddle, the MLS' leading scorer.
Named on Thursday as the MLS Player of the Month, Buddle has scored all seven of the Galaxy's goals this season.
A native of Westchester County in Upstate New York, Buddle has already surpassed his goal total from last season, when he had five in 19 games during an injury-plagued season for the Galaxy, who lost in the MLS championship game to Real Salt Lake.
"I've never started out this way," Buddle said in a phone interview. "It usually takes me a while to warm up."
He credits the fact that he stayed in California during the off-season, playing in some high-level pickup games.
The 28-year-old Buddle, who has just one career cap, could be making a late impression on the U.S. national team.
"There has been talk of [a national team call-up], but I don't know what will come out of it, and my main focus has been on the Galaxy," Buddle said. "I would love to play for my country, and if I continue to play well, make Bob's decision harder," referring to U.S. national team coach Bob Bradley.
"Edson Buddle is on fire and has something to play for in a lot of ways and is playing his way into a potential national team call-up," Union assistant coach John Hackworth said. "When you are facing a goal-scorer like that, you have to do a really good job of containing him."