MatchDay Preview: Portland look to solidify playoff berth against New York
A pair of clubs in a desperate battle to claim spots in the MLS Cup Playoffs meet Saturday evening at Red Bull Arena when the New York Red Bulls play host to the Portland Timbers. Portland moved a point ahead of New York and into 10th place overall as both clubs come off midweek home matches. The Red Bulls lost 3-1 to Real Salt Lake, while the Timbers reached a 1-1 draw with the San Jose Earthquakes.
The Portland Timbers saw their four-game winning streak come to an end, pegged back into a 1-1 draw by the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday evening at PPL Park. The Timbers have 37 points from 29 games, in sixth place in the Western Conference.
- The Timbers once again took an early lead, again after nine minutes. Darlington Nagbe won a high ball on the right flank and sent a pass across the face of goal to Kenny Cooper, who chipped it over sprawling Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch.
- But the Earthquakes hit for the leveler with 20 minutes to play. Khari Stephenson collected a centering pass from Rafael Baca in traffic outside the area, spun and fired a low shot just inside Troy Perkins' right post.
- Timbers coach John Spencer made no changes to the team that rolled to a 3-0 defeat of the New England Revolution at PPL Park.
PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-4-2): Troy Perkins - Lovel Palmer, Mamadou Danso, Eric Brunner, Mike Chabala - Diego Chara (James Marcelin 83) - Sal Zizzo, Jack Jewsbury, Kalif Alhassan - Kenny Cooper (Bright Dike 85), Darlington Nagbe (Jorge Perlaza 75)
The Timbers saw their streak of three consecutive shutouts come to an end, the Khari Stephenson goal the first allowed by the club in 340 minutes.
"I think going into this week our goal was six points out of our two home games. We knew we probably didn't play our best soccer of the year tonight, but there's times during the year where you have to scratch and pull out those wins even when you're not playing well," said Portland club captain Jack Jewsbury.
For a second consecutive game, Darlington Nagbe started up top alongside Kenny Cooper, and the two combined on the Portland goal.
"I enjoy playing with him, I think he's a great talent. I think we're fortunate here that there's a lot of great depth on this team, you look at Jorge (Perlaza) and Bright (Dike) — they're both great forwards. Darlington's a great talent and I'm sure a lot of players would enjoy playing with him," Cooper said.
For Cooper, it was his second goal in as many games and sixth of the season, while Nagbe has a goal and an assist since moving to striker and now has three assists in his rookie year.
"Kenny gets another goal tonight which is good for him, good for his confidence. Obviously, Darlington, apart from having the goalkeeper making an unbelievable save on him in the box, I thought the two of them held the ball up well and the movement was good. I think they linked up very well together," said Spencer.
The Timbers now face four of their final five games away from JELD-WEN Field, with trips to New York and Vancouver for the next two games followed by the home regular-season finale vs. Houston. Portland then concludes with visits to D.C. United and Real Salt Lake.
The Timbers' nine home wins rank them tied for third in MLS, behind the LA Galaxy and Real Salt Lake (10 each). On the road, the Timbers are 1-8-4.
"Do I think we're good enough to go and pick up points on the road? Yes, I do. We've got to have that belief in ourselves. That's what good teams do at this point of the year, they go on the road and grind out three points. It's not always about style and substance, sometimes you've just got to go and dig deep and try and get something and sneak a win," said Spencer. "We'll approach the game against Red Bulls this weekend the same way as we approached the game tonight, try and get three points."
Just two teams in MLS history have qualified for the playoffs in their expansion year: the Chicago Fire in 1998 and Seattle Sounders FC in 2009.
"I think at this time you see some nerves start to come in. I've been on teams in Kansas City where it has come down to that last game three years in a row. A few years it was good, a few years it was heartbreak," said Jewsbury. "I think it's those moments that some of the veteran guys have to step up and say we don't want to be one of those teams on the verge of making it."
NEW YORK RED BULLS
The New York Red Bulls started back-to-back home games with a heavy defeat, falling 3-1 to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday evening at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls have 36 points from 29 games, in fifth place in the Eastern Conference.
- Real were in front after just seven minutes, when Alvaro Saborio rose perfectly over Teemu Tainio to tuck in a header from an Andy Williams corner kick from the right just inside the near post.
- Then four minutes later, RSL made it 2-0 when Tim Ream's soft pass in the direction of goalkeeper Frank Rost was intercepted by Fabian Espindola, who simply rounded Rost and fired into an open net.
- RSL made it 3-0 in the 21st minute. From near the midfield line, Collen Warner threaded a precise pass between a pair of New York defenders to a sprinting Espíndola, who flicked a left-footed shot past Rost from the top of the area.
- The Red Bulls pulled a goal in the 69th minute in spectacular fashion, when Joel Lindpere met a Rafa Márquez free kick with a flying scissor-kick from inside the area that sailed into the top of the net.
- Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe made three changes to the team that defeated FC Dallas 1-0 at Pizza Hut Park. Jan Gunnar Solli and Rafael Marquez returned from injury in place of Stephen Keel and Carlos Mendes, and Thierry Henry also came back into the team in place of Juan Agudelo.
- NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-2): Frank Rost - Jan Gunnar Solli, Tim Ream, Rafael Marquez, Chris Albright (Carlos Mendes 15) - Teemu Tainio (Brian Nielsen 86) - Dane Richards, Dax McCarty, Joel Lindpere - Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers (Juan Agudelo 54).
The loss left the Red Bulls a point behind Portland for the final wild card spot (10th place overall) with five games remaining. Of the five, four are against teams currently in the top 10 (Portland, LA, Philadelphia, Kansas City).
"We need to pick up wins, that's for sure. I think it's good for us to play the playoff teams now so we really know what we have to do. Probably three or four wins out of five to make the playoffs," said Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe.
"We are close to the finish line but we are not getting the results we need. We were very lucky against Dallas, but you can't count on luck all the time," said Rafa Marquez. "… We had individual mistakes. With these types of mistakes it's hard to lift your head back up, especially when these mistakes are recurring in the game. So that makes it tough."
The Red Bulls are now riding a five-game winless streak at Red Bull Arena. Since a 5-0 win against Toronto FC on July 6, New York is 0-2-3 at home.
Backe was forced into an early change when left back Chris Albright was injured in a non-contact situation, meaning Carlos Mendes had to come in.
"With (Chris) Albright playing left back, it's almost the same type of player as Carlos Mendes and I think it worked quite well for Carlos (Mendes) playing left back," Backe said.
That further impacted the substitution patterns later in the match. Luke Rodgers was making just his second start since July 6 and lasted 54 minutes after playing 45 minutes at the weekend, and Thierry Henry played the entire match after missing the FC Dallas through injury.
"We said that Luke should do, maximum, 45. But, we said after the first half being three down, every player needed to show in the first 10 to 15 minutes what you're made of being three down and take some responsibility," said Backe. " ... I don't know about Thierry. I think he should be OK doing 90, there shouldn't be any problem. And Luke probably doing 60 on Saturday."
The Red Bulls have now conceded 41 goals on the season; among the clubs in immediate playoff contention, only the Portland Timbers have allowed more (42).
"We know instead of blaming each other, we know in the back four we could have done differently. We could have cleared the ball a couple of times," said Jan Gunnar Solli. "Those three mistakes ruined the game for us, because in the second half we really tried to get the early goal. Unfortunately it wasn't as early as we hoped."
REFEREE: Alex Prus. SAR (bench): Sean Hurd; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Mark Geiger
MLS Career: 188 games; FC/gm: 27.3; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 42; pens: 50
Sports Medicine Oreong INJURY REPORT: NEW YORK RED BULLS — OUT: MF Carl Robinson (R knee contusion); MF Sacir Hot (R knee contusion); DOUBTFUL: DF Roy Miller (R adductor strain) ... PORTLAND TIMBERS — OUT: GK Adin Brown (concussion); DF Kevin Goldthwaite (L knee ACL rupture); FW Eddie Johnson (concussion); FW Spencer Thompson (R knee); PROBABLE: DF Mamadou Danso (R hamstring strain); DF David Horst (L groin strain); GK Troy Perkins (R hip soreness)
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: NY: Thierry Henry, Joel Lindpere, Carlos Mendes, Teemu Tainio ... POR: Kalif Alhassan, Diego Chara, James Marcelin
ALL-TIME (1 meeting): Red Bulls 0 wins, 3 goals ... Timbers 0 wins, 3 goals ... Ties 1
- In the first meeting between the clubs, Dwayne De Rosario scored deep into second-half stoppage time to cap a late Red Bulls comeback as the clubs finished in a wild 3-3 draw, June 19 at JELD-WEN Field.
- Coaches record: John Spencer vs. NY: P1 W0 L0 T1 ... Hans Backe v POR: P1 W0 L0 T1
LAST MEETING (MLS)
- 6/19: POR 3, NY 3 (Jewsbury 48; Goldthwaite 49; own goal 67 — da Luz 5; Henry 73; De Rosario 90)
- The Red Bulls took the lead in the fourth minute, when Dwayne De Rosario's cross found Austin da Luz at the penalty spot, and he fired home.
- But the Timbers scored twice in two minutes just after the break. Jack Jewsbury pounced on a poorly cleared ball at the top of the box and slammed it past Greg Sutton (47), then Jewsbury lofted a free kick to the back post where Eric Brunner headed it back across the area and Kevin Goldthwaite finished it off from close range.
- The score became 3-1 when Stephen Keel turned a Jorge Perlaza cross from the right into his own net. But Henry pulled New York back in the 73rd minute as he played a series of one-twos through the Timbers defense before finishing with his left foot in the area.
- Portland looked like restoring their two-goal lead in the 76th minute when Sutton pulled down Perlaza in the area. But Jewsbury's penalty attempt rapped off the left-hand post. Then in an off-the-ball incident deep in second-half stoppage time, Henry saw a straight red after a tussle with Timbers substitute Adam Moffat, who himself saw yellow.
- Well later into stoppage time, Anthony Wallace handled De Rosario's hopeful, low cross into the area and the Canadian international finished off his own penalty.
- PORTLAND TIMBERS (4-4-2): Troy Perkins - Jeremy Hall (Adam Moffat 86), David Horst (Kevin Goldthwaite 46), Eric Brunner, Rodney Wallace - Darlington Nagbe (Sal Zizzo 72), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan - Kenny Cooper, Jorge Perlaza.
NEW YORK RED BULLS (4-1-3-2): Greg Sutton - Jan Gunnar Solli, Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Roy Miller - Teemu Tainio - Austin da Luz (John Rooney 81), Mehdi Ballouchy, Joel Lindpere - Dwayne De Rosario, Thierry Henry (sent off 93+).