5 Things on Portland

The Red Bulls suffered their second loss in as many games when they fell, 2-0, against Toronto at BMO Field.

New York will look to bounce back and begin a new undefeated home streak this weekend against a struggling Timbers side when the two teams take to the pitch for a 7:00 kickoff at Red Bull Arena on Saturday (Live on MSG starting at 6:30 PM).

1. Start a new home undefeated streak

Before the 5-4 home loss to Chicago on May 10th, the Red Bulls hadn’t lost a match played at Red Bull Arena since June 1st, 2013, spanning 13 straight matches. New York begins a critical part of their schedule this weekend and getting a result against the Timbers is crucial to starting this stretch on the right foot because there will not be another home league match until Toronto visits on June 27th, more than a full month away. Portland has just one win this season and seven draws, most in MLS, so the odds are in the home team’s favor to snap their winless streak.

2. Last year’s Western Conference champions are reeling

Last year, Portland head coach Caleb Porter was named MLS Coach of the Year for leading his team to the top of the Western Conference standings in his rookie year. The team finished 14-5-15 and enjoyed a 15-game unbeaten streak from March 16th until June 23rd. This year, however, Porter and his men have struggled mightily to the tune of a 1-3-7 record, or 10 points in 11 games. Their struggles are amplified on the road with a 0-3-1 record and just two goals scored to six goals conceded. The Timbers will be without defensive midfielder Diego Chara, after the Colombian suffered a fractured hand against Los Angeles, right back Alvas Powell (red card), and possibly left back Michael Harrington as well due to an ankle sprain. Portland’s recent struggles, especially on the road, and injuries/suspension to several key defenders make them vulnerable this Saturday.

3. Besides BWP, who scores for RBNY?

Prior to last week’s 2-0 loss in Toronto, the last time Bradley Wright-Phillips didn’t score for his team was in the 2-1 victory over the Philadelphia Union at Red Bull Arena on April 16th. The Red Bulls’ English striker has scored eight of the team’s 10 goals over the past five matches. The other two have come from Tim Cahill and Thierry Henry.

With Cahill preparing for the World Cup with the Australian national team and Peguy Luyindula questionable with an injury, New York’s scoring options are quite thin behind Wright-Phillips. With opposing defenses now keying in on the Englishman, the pressure is on his teammates to step up and find the back of the net. Specifically, Thierry Henry will be looking for his first goal in a month.

4. Eastern Conference Parity

Although the Red Bulls have lost their last two matches, they haven’t lost much ground in the conference. Results were essentially perfect for New York. Aside from the Revolution moving up to first place and Houston winning to move into a tie for second, all teams above and around the Red Bulls either drew or lost. Sporting Kansas City lost two matches in four days, to the Union and the Fire, while Columbus and DC United drew. 2nd and 8th place are separated by only five points.

The Eastern Conference is entirely up for grabs and every point matters.

5. Replacing the Stars, Part 2

In the first game without Tim Cahill and Roy Miller, the Red Bulls lost 2-0. The team was also missing and may also again be without French playmaker Peguy Luyindula this weekend due to a calf strain. Against Toronto, Eric Alexander was shifted out of position to a central midfield role and Jonny Steele made his sixth start of the season. There was a clear shakiness to Alexander’s usually steady play while playing in an unnatural position. This is also potentially Steele’s last league match for several weeks as he gets set to join up with the Northern Ireland national team for a pair of friendlies. Right back Kosuke Kimura was removed early in the second half against Toronto so that rookie Chris Duvall could make his MLS debut. Look for head coach Mike Petke to continue tinkering with his starting XI in the absence of some of his best players, including a potential first league start for Duvall.