Rival recovery

Union know they must be ready for Red Bulls even on short rest

Philly NY

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Like any rivalry game, the intensity will be there.

The passion will be evident, the crowd will be raucous. The play will be feisty and the players will be ultra-competitive.

All those factors are expected. One thing that can’t be controlled – team records. Some years, a rivalry will feature a pair of clubs headed to the postseason. This time, the stakes are a bit different.

The New York Red Bulls (15-9-9, 54 points) come to PPL Park as a playoff team no matter what transpires against the Philadelphia Union (10-17-6, 36 points) on Saturday.

Still, the Union can play the role of spoiler a little bit since the Red Bulls can still earn a higher seed in the Eastern Conference with three points.

This is still a rivalry game in every way, and you can bet the fans will be ready to scream.

“New York is a rivalry game,” said Union defender Amobi Okugo. “We haven't beat them this season, so we have to give the home fans something to remember going into offseason and to build into next season. We have to get out of this slump that we've been in with two road losses and it's going to be good to end the season at home against one of our rivals.”

The Union have dropped both previous meetings against New York this season and have won just two of seven career matches.

Philadelphia will enter this rivalry game after enduring two tough road losses – at Houston and Kansas City just a few nights ago.

“We’re used to it [and] we’ve had a lot of quick turnarounds,” said rookie forward Antoine Hoppenot, who scored the Union’s lone goal in a 2-1 loss at Sporting last Wednesday. “We know what we need to do and we will be ready for Saturday.”

It won’t be easy defeating the Red Bulls, especially stopping the likes of Kenny Cooper (16 goals) and Thierry Henry (14 goals, 12 assists).

While the Union are a young side, it’s still a banged-up bunch.

But this is a rivalry game and any nicks and bruises won’t even be felt once the adrenaline starts flowing against their I-95 nemesis.

“We have to recover,” Union manager John Hackworth said. “This has been our second game in four days. We’ve got some tired bodies in there, mentally and physically. We’re a little banged up. We’ve got some injuries. We’ve got to regenerate. I know we will be ready for New York on Saturday.”

Contact Union writer Andy Jasner at andy.jasner@yahoo.com