Last season, Portland and New York kicked off the season with a memorable, bizarre game. In fact, it wasn't even the first 3-3 draw between the two clubs. Yet over four games, the Timbers have never beaten Red Bull. Both games in New Jersey featured controversial calls (Kalif Alhassan's 2011 handball; Tim Cahill's after-the-whistle goal in 2012) and left Portland slinking back to the west coast without a point. How will things shake out in the 2014 edition? Well we asked Jason Iapicco of SB Nation's Red Bull blog, Once a Metro, to give us his thoughts. Here they are, complete and unabridged:
1. After just one loss in nine games, Red Bull lost each of the past two games including the first loss at home in 2014. What's happened in mid-May after that pretty nice start?
Going into the Chicago match, things were lining up for the Red Bulls. They were on a four game unbeaten streak (3-1-0), all of their players were getting healthy, and Tim Cahill was starting to get in form after coming back from an injury. I think the Chicago game was a little bit of bad luck (Mike Magee's offside controversy and other questionable calls) and probably a little bit of overconfidence looking pass a Chicago side that hadn't won at that point. Then they ran into a Toronto team with Jermain Defoe, who had just been left off of the England WC roster, while missing Peguy Luyindula, Roy Miller, and Tim Cahill. In that match, Mike Petke started Bobby Convey at left back, who had a decent game, but was forced to move Eric Alexander into central midfield, where he just doesn't work for this team. Worse of all, these two games saw Luis Robles have two of his worst games this season, which coincided with the defense have having bad games as well.
While Cahill will be out for the World Cup, he's actually not the player who will be the most missed. Surprise of the season, Roy Miller, who has been a rock at left back, will be the bigger absence. He started every game except for the Toronto match (he was let go early for the World Cup), and when he was in the lineup, very rarely did our opponents beat us on the left. Miller also contributes on the offense side, and he developed some good chemistry with Eric Alexander. Against Toronto, it's obvious he was gone, especially when Defoe got a goal early.
The Red Bulls are also expected to not have Luyindula, as he's still recovering from an injury he picked up in training before the Toronto match. Peguy has really pushed the idea of him starting over Tim Cahill as he's a more creative option on the ball. The Red Bulls three game unbeaten streak from April 16th-26 happened to coincide with a Tim Cahill injury, when Peguy was really performing well. Lastly, I expect Right Back Kosuke Kimura could be omitted from the lineup this week after putting in two straight poor performances. Petke even took Kimura off at halftime against Toronto to put in 2014 draft pick Chris Duvall, who made his MLS debut, and solidified the right side.
For Portland, this is the best time to catch New York. Two players out on World Cup duty, another mainstay out with an injury, and New York has to play Sporting Kansas City only three days later. Petke has made it clear he doesn't intend to change his game plan due to the short rest, but it's got to be in the back of the players' minds. I don't see Portland coming out with a win though. Despite the scoreline in Toronto, New York had long stretches of good play, but just couldn't put it away against a veteran MLS keeper. Luis Robles will also look to bounce back from his last two outings, and of course the crowd will be behind the team. However, given how crazy the games have been in the short history of this match up, anything can happen.
Luis Robles; Richard Eckersley, Jamison Olave, Armando, Bobby Convey; Lloyd Sam, Eric Alexander, Dax McCarty, Jonny Steele; Thierry Henry, Bradley Wright-Phillips