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Inside the Union: Union face a critical test at home

Now comes the difficult part. There was no problem for the Union getting up for a second game in five days, mainly because of the opponent.

Now comes the difficult part.

There was no problem for the Union getting up for a second game in five days, mainly because of the opponent.

Now they must prepare for a third game in eight days, while bouncing back from a most difficult final 45 minutes.

How the Union fare in Saturday's MLS matchup at PPL Park against the Chicago Fire at 7:30 p.m. will go a long way toward determining whether they have the ability to hang in there for the marathon of a playoff run.

The Union began their journey with Saturday's 1-0 win over the host Fire. Then came Wednesday's 4-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in a game that was 1-1 at halftime before the Union had the misfortune of witnessing the best half of the season for Landon Donovan and company.

Now the Union have to meet the Fire for a second time in eight days, and any potential fear of overconfidence after last week's road win was wiped away by the second half against the Galaxy.

Normally teams have more time in MLS to lick their wounds, but the Union must bounce back immediately.

And it wouldn't hurt to start showing they can be a more forceful team at home. The loss to the Galaxy dropped the Union to 1-2-2 this season at PPL Park.

When the Union made the playoffs during their second season in 2011, they were 7-1-9 during the regular season at PPL Park.

And speaking of the playoffs, it was interesting that Union team manager John Hackworth talked before the Galaxy game about how the players didn't think they were receiving the proper respect.

Even after Wednesday's loss, the Union are 4-4-3, markedly improved from last year's 10-18-6 edition.

The so-called respect would have been more justified with a win or even a tie against the Galaxy.

This is not to say the Union shouldn't be respected, but they also can't be in the conversation when top MLS teams are mentioned. At least not at this point.

Then again, if the 34-game season ended today, the Union would be the fifth and final team to earn an Eastern Conference playoff berth.

In order to be a playoff participant, a team must control matters at home and has to bounce back from inevitable difficult defeats that are bound to hit every team.

Look at the Galaxy. They were coming off a 3-1 loss to a Vancouver team that had been winless in its previous seven MLS games. It was Los Angeles' second straight loss.

Some brilliant writer (i.e. this reporter) suggested the Union were getting the Galaxy at an opportune time.

It turns out, those two losses motivated the Galaxy. Having captain Robbie Keane return after missing the previous three games with an ankle injury sure didn't hurt.

The fact is that the two-time defending MLS champs were able to bounce back and thrive. Now the Union must do the same. This isn't a must game, but it sure would tell a lot about the Union's resilient nature, which is a prerequisite for a postseason run.

U.S. Open Cup. The Union will play a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup game on May 28 in the third round against the winner of Tuesday's second-round game between the Pittsburgh Riverhounds (USL PRO) and the Ocean City Nor'easters (PDL). If Pittsburgh wins on Tuesday, the Union will travel to Highmark Stadium in Pittsburgh for a 7 p.m. kickoff. If the Nor'easters win, the Union will host the game at PPL Park at 7:30 p.m.