HARRISON, N.J. – A first half goal by Dane Richards and a Luke Rodgers' tally from the penalty spot propelled the NY Red Bulls to a crucial 2-0 home victory over 10-man Portland Timbers on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.
The three points allow New York (8-7-15, 39 points) to overtake the Timbers (10-13-7, 37 points) for sole possession of the tenth and final playoff spot, one point ahead of D.C. United and two in front of Portland.
A spectacular solo effort by Richards broke open the scoring for the home team in the 21st minute and Rodgers buried a 66th minute penalty kick awarded to New York when Kalif Alhassan was controversially adjudged to have handled a Thierry Henry shot at the goal line. Alhassan was sent off by referee Alex Prus on the play.
While the Red Bulls won for the first time at home since July 6, the Timbers, who are 1-9-4 away from the confines of JELD-WEN Field, have not won on the road since July 16 when they recorded a 1-0 victory at Chicago.
New York played without defender Rafael Márquez, who watched from a luxury suite after the club suspended him for remarks he made about his teammates following the midweek loss against RSL. Portland manager John Spencer sat regular right winger Sal Zizzo and replaced him in the starting lineup with Eric Alexander.
After some early pressure from the visiting Timbers, the Red Bulls got the early goal they needed after 21 minutes. Joel Lindpere received the ball on the left wing and the Estonian dropped a pass back to Richards, who had moved into his support. The Jamaican international drove into the penalty area, beating Portland’s Diego Chara to the endline. Just a yard away from goalkeeper Troy Perkins’ near post, Richards slotted a right-footed shot just inside the far post for his sixth goal of the season.
The hosts came close to doubling the lead 10 minutes later but Perkins made a splendid reaction save to his right to deny a Henry header off a Teemu Tainio set piece from 30 yards out.
Playing for the counterattack, the Timbers generated no clear-cut scoring opportunities in the first half -- they had just three shots on goal in the match -- and the Red Bulls took their advantage into the break after a passionate first-half display, feeding off the energy of the sold-out home crowd.
Several half chances marked the start of second half for New York, who continued to press for a goal that would seal the game. In the 55th minute, Lindpere took control 40 yards away from goal and drove straight to the edge of the penalty area but his left-footed shot whistled just feet away from the far post.
Despite their limited chances in the attacking third, Portland’s two best chances of the game came within seconds of each other in the 57th minute. A pass from Darlington Nagbe found Alhassan with space on the left wing and, cutting inside, Alhassan right-footed a swerving shot that beat NY goalkeeper Frank Rost but struck the crossbar. The rebound fell to forward Kenny Cooper in the six-yard box, but his scissor-kick bounced once off the turf and then off the post before it was cleared.
Perkins kept his team in the game just minutes later with a reaction save on a right-footed effort from Henry, who put a Richards cross on frame after the Jamaican made another spectacular run down the right wing.
The goal to seal the match came in the 66th minute via the penalty spot. Off a Lindpere corner kick, Henry fired a shot that appeared headed into the back of the goal but was handled by Alhassan. Prus wasted no time in awarding a penalty and showing Alhassan a straight red card for the handball.
Rodgers stepped up confidently to the spot and fired an effort past Perkins and into the roof of the net to synch the victory for the Red Bulls. It was the eighth goal of the season for the English forward.
The Red Bulls will continue their playoff push on the road next Saturday at BMO Field when they take on Toronto FC. The Timbers take their postseason hopes on the road again to Vancouver for a Sunday Cascadia derby match.
NY -- Dane Richards 6 (unassisted) 21
NY -- Luke Rodgers 8 (penalty kick) 66
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Lovel Palmer, Eric Brunner, Mamadou Danso, Mike Chabala, Eric Alexander (Sal Zizzo 46), Jack Jewsbury, Diego Chara, Kalif Alhassan, Kenny Cooper (Jorge Perlaza 71), Darlington Nagbe (Bright Dike 76).
Substitutes Not Used: David Horst, James Marcelin, Rodney Wallace, Jake Gleeson.
New York Red Bulls -- Frank Rost, Jan Gunnar Solli, Stephen Keel, Tim Ream, Carlos Mendes, Dane Richards (Mehdi Ballouchy 89), Dax McCarty, Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere (Stephane Auvray 83), Luke Rodgers (Juan Agudelo 75), Thierry Henry.
Substitutes Not Used: Matt Kassel, Roy Miller, Brian Nielsen, Bouna Coundoul.
POR -- Jack Jewsbury (caution; Reckless Tackle) 41
POR -- Kalif Alhassan (ejection; Denied Goal Scoring Opportunity (Handball)) 64
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: Sean Hurd; Steven Taylor
4th Official: Mark Geiger
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy and 76 degrees