HARRISON, N.J. - The Union certainly wasn't afraid of the big bad Bull.
Short of sizable fanfare on New York's behalf, there was plenty to provide intimidation, starting with the pristine $200 million palace known as Red Bull Arena, which hosted Saturday's 2-1 Red Bull victory over the Union.
What 15,619 fans witnessed was the Union, yet again, become soccer's version of a hard-luck loser. While it proved it can hang with the league's best, earning a favorable result was a much different story as the club squandered a chance at three points due to another fluke play.
A handball by defender Michael Orozco in the 67th minute gave Red Bull forward Juan Pablo Angel a gift from the penalty spot. A ball that appeared to have caromed off Orozco's face and trickle down his arm was ruled an infraction that again found the Union (1-3-0) trying to play catch-up.
In three of the Union's four games, an odd event has tested the resolve of a club still trying to make its impact on MLS. Games in Seattle and Toronto found the team shorthanded because of red cards. And for the second game in a row, the Union conceded a penalty kick that amounted in a game-winner for the opposition.
"It's difficult to really explain what it is right now, except the goals we have conceded are preventable," said manager Peter Nowak. "Some of the stuff we need to fix is coachable, but, for the most part, it's a matter of these guys realizing we just can't have these kind of mistakes."
"It's unfortunate," Orozco said. "I mean, I couldn't really see the ball, and by the time it got to me it just took a bad break. It was completely accidental, anyone can see that. It was just a tough break and I feel bad to have let my team down."
The sun broke on the East side of the field for much of the match and it was on that side of the pitch that Orozco's attempt at a clearance amounted to a freebie for Eastern Conference leader New York (4-1-0).
"In [pregame] warmups, we were hitting long balls on that side of the field and between the sun and the lights, it was easy to lose the ball," said Union assistant coach John Hackworth. "It was a blind spot the whole game and no question it was one on that play."
The one positive yet again was the combination of forwards Alejandro Moreno and Sebastian Le Toux, who linked up for the equalizer in the 59th minute. A ball slotted across the 6-yard box found Le Toux's boot just past the outstretched mitts of Red Bulls keeper Bouna Coundoul.
It was the third time this season the pair linked for points; the first two came in the club's home opener against D.C. United in which Le Toux scored a hat trick.
"I think the reason we play so well is that he is always looking to see where I am on the field and I am looking for him," said Moreno. "I think a lot of that stems from all the time we spent together in preseason. He's very active and he likes to get in behind defenders and it becomes our job to get the ball to him."
"I just sprinted from the beginning down the line," Le Toux explained. " I knew [Moreno] was going to cross the ball and I worked very hard and was on the second [far] post and he gave it to me. He just had to tap it in. We played well; we just have to fix mistakes, if we are more concentrated and we don't give up this mistake, I'm sure we are going to be really strong on Tuesday."
Tomorrow is another trip to the Arena to face the Bull in an opening-round play-in game of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. The Union's season doesn't get any easier with a trip to play Landon Donovan, Edson Buddle and Western Conference leader L.A. Galaxy on Saturday (10:30 p.m., ESPN2).
Riled-up New York fans felt the need to pelt the bus of the Union's fan club, the Sons of Ben, with stones, breaking a few windows. No one was injured . . . In all four games this season, Union playmaker Roger Torres failed to play a full 90 minutes. Torres was subbed out at halftime for second-year player and ex-Red Bull Nick Zimmerman. In the Union's 2-1 loss to Toronto FC, Torres played just 55 minutes. "I think the game started to get away from him a bit so we took him out," said Nowak. "He struggled to find a rhythm . . . All of our guys are capable of playing 90 minutes. We just felt that it was necessary to give him a rest." Torres is second on the team in assists (two) and nearly provided another in the 31st minute of Saturday's game, to midfielder Fred.
In an MLS game yesterday: