Williams at NYRB
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Philly bring confidence into difficult away matchup

The challenge is steep but hardly insurmountable.

For the Philadelphia Union to extend their winning streak to a franchise-best four games, it will take a complete team effort against one of the best home teams in the league.

The Union (6-9-2) travel to Red Bull Arena Saturday afternoon (2:30 p.m. ET, ESPN) to face their I-95 rival New York Red Bulls.

New York enters this match with a 10-5-5 record and 6-0-3 at home, one of two unbeaten clubs on its home pitch along with the Houston Dynamo.

Under manager Hans Backe, the Red Bulls are also 31-0-11 all-time and 7-0-2 this season when scoring the first goal.

Getting three points at Red Bull Arena will be difficult. But it definitely can be done given the Union’s strong play in recent matches.

“I think it’s going to be a good thing playing on the road, especially with the result they had here earlier in the season and the momentum we’re carrying,” defender Amobi Okugo told philadelphiaunion.com. “It’s going to be a tough game. It’s going to be a rivalry. We’re going to try and get a result because we haven’t had one there before. I know the guys in here are ready and excited about the challenge.”

The Red Bulls defeated the Union 3-2 on May 27 at PPL Park. That was eons ago as far as the Union are concerned.

“We have to stick with what we’re doing and stay focused on us,” said forward Antoine Hoppenot. “I think we are playing with a high level of confidence right now and we know what we have to do against New York. It would be great to get that first goal to get our supporters behind us on the road. That’s always the goal, to score first. If we can get that momentum early, I think it will be a huge help.”

This is the type of match that defender Sheanon Williams relishes – going up against a top-quality opponent in a tough environment.

It’s a measuring stick for sure.

“We just need to keep playing the way we’ve been playing,” Williams said. “We’ve been playing a lot of games in a short amount of time. We built some momentum and we’re going to continue in New York where it’s a tough place to play. They’ll be ready to go and we’re going to do our best to come up with points. I think it can help focus us because we’re going on the road and we need to come together.

“Every game in itself is a challenge. We’ve had some good challenges and we’re open to it. We have a long road ahead of us and we’re going to do our best to climb back into it.”

The Union don’t have a lot of time to prepare following Wednesday’s friendly against Aston Villa FC. That’s part of the job, however.

The players will be ready.

“We like to play soccer so whenever we get a chance to play 90 minutes, we’re going to give it our all, whether we’re on heavy legs or not,” Okugo said. “The coaches do a great job preparing us and the training staff does a great job of keeping us ready. This is a rivalry game, and yes, it’s on short rest, but we’re going to be excited and definitely ready to play.”


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