Red Bulls and Union Prepare to Battle for Final Time This Season (Saturday, 8:00 PM, NBC Sports)

It’s another Eastern Conference battle at Red Bull Arena Saturday night when the New York Red Bulls host the Philadelphia Union at 8 PM (Watch live on NBC Sports).

Only one point separates the Red Bulls from first place Sporting KC, and just six points separate the first place from fifth. It’s a close race for sure, but it’s not about the standings as far as the Red Bulls are concerned. In fact, it’s much more precise than that.

“It’s about three points this weekend,” Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke said while talking to members of the media Thursday afternoon. “It’s about bouncing back. These guys have bounced back after bad performances all year. Can’t do anything about the past, it’s all about the next game. Next game’s against Philadelphia at home, and it’s all about three points.”

As touched upon briefly in this week’s What to Watch For, the Red Bulls have responded well all season long when coming out of a match in which they were on the losing side of a shutout.

In four previous instances this season, the team has won each of its following matches: Mar. 30 against the Union, Apr. 20 against the New England Revolution, June 30 vs. the Houston Dynamo, and July 13 against the Montreal Impact.  

Coincidence? Perhaps. But once you get past the second or third occurrence you can’t help but think, “Is this team playing with a chip on its shoulder?”

"I made it clear that so many times this year what we have done when I talked to them [Wednesday], is we've bounced back from a disappointing result,” Mike Petke said after Wednesday’s session. “And that's something they've done on many occasions this year.”

In previous meetings this season between the Red Bulls and Union, each side walked away with a ‘W.’ New York took the first of the series on Mar. 30 in a 2-1 victory, which also doubled over as Petke’s first career win, before the Union answered back with a win of their own on June 23. In both instances the home side came out the victor, something that may bode well for the Red Bulls as they prepare to play in front of the home crowd Saturday night.

Still, all the talk about the Eastern Conference standings does have some validity, as SKC (39 points), the Red Bulls (38 points) and the Union (37 points) are bidding for sole possession of that number one spot this weekend.

But in the bigger picture, New York is dead set on righting wrongs vs. Columbus, getting back on track, and, simply put, winning.

“It doesn’t matter where Philadelphia is in table, it’s three points for us and that’s really our focus,” Petke said. “We’re not looking at them where their standings are, we’re not looking at anything more than us getting out there, getting back to what we’ve done well this year and putting in a performance that’s worthy of three points.”

Get tickets now to Saturday’s match between the Union and Red Bulls, as the two sides face off for the third and final time this season. Following the final whistle, be sure to stick around for what will surely be a fireworks show you won’t want to miss! Visit Red Bulls Ticket Central for more info, or call 877.RB.SOCCER.