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When “bouncing back” isn’t enough. Right, Red Bulls?

Aug 17, 2013, 4:42 PM EST

DC United v New York Red Bulls - Eastern Conference Semifinals Getty Images

The Red Bulls, still among the league’s most talented teams, never mind a big briar patch of inconsistency that says otherwise, are coming off a poor night of soccer.

And haven’t we said that a few times this year?

Last week Mike Petke’s team lost to Columbus, an injury-socked side with post-season hopes on life support.

Three weeks back the Red Bulls drew at Toronto. While a tie on the road is never the worst of results, the Red Bulls’ stalled attack had fans slapping their noggins in disgust.

In between, however, were two quality victories, a wonderfully entertaining win over the West’s top team, Real Salt Lake, and a road win at Sporting Kansas City. All in all, the past month is a perfect illustration of the Red Bulls up-and-down season, a campaign where Petke’s team can manage to resemble a real contender one week and a losing skid waiting to happen a few nights later.

(MORE: New York Red Bulls-Philadelphia Union preview from PST)

In looking at tonight’s contest in Harrison, N.J., against John Hackworth’s third-place Union, here’s what Petke said Thursday to gathered media members:  “It’s about three points this weekend. 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.”

But isn’t this New York? Isn’t this the team of Thierry Henry and (currently injured) Tim Cahill? Isn’t this the team with Jamison Olave on patrol in the rear, perhaps the league’s most dominant center back when he stays healthy and enjoys a good run?

Isn’t it about more for the Red Bulls, who have 10 rounds remaining to discover how to bring out that bests version consistently?

Petke is a first-year manager, and he’s always been humble enough to say so, always copping to his inexperience. That’s good, because anything else would be disingenuous.

On the other hand, he’s the coach of the league’s biggest brand this side of Los Angeles. It’s time for Petke, and the Red Bulls, to start being all they can be.

Tonight’s match from Red Bull Arena begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBCSN.

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