The Portland Timbers are on the road again this weekend and are set to take on the New York Red Bulls this Sunday. The Timbers come into this match carrying a six game unbeaten run, while New York has stumbled recently, going winless in their last three -- including a first-ever loss to New York City FC last weekend.
To get a feel for the state of the Timbers opposition, we talked to the folks over at Once a Metro to get an idea of just what the Timbers might be facing on Sunday and they were kind enough to answer some of our questions. You can find our answers to their questions here.
The Red Bulls have struggled to put together a consistent run of form so far this season, starting the season off with some poor losses, going on a run to jump back up the standings, then most recently seeming to struggle again. What is keeping the Red Bulls from being the same domineering team that bullied the East for most of 2016?
The Red Bulls are on an opposite trajectory from 2015. Last season, they started hot, cooled off when Matt Miazga went to the U-20 World Cup, then picked up steam again the rest of the season after he returned. 2016 is just as you described, which is very perplexing to RBNY supporters. They kept ten of the starting XI (even though they just shipped off Lloyd Sam to D.C. United on Thursday). You would think they had the ability to pick up right where they left off. I don't have an explanation for it, but the chemistry wasn't there the first two months.
Unfortunately for the Red Bulls, it seems that teams are starting to figure out how to break their pressure and get on the break. Most of the goals that the team has given up are in unsettled situations. A great example of this is the US Open Cup loss to the Philadelphia Union the last week of June. Both goals were from the run of play, with a striker making a diagonal run between the two center back's. Overall this season, CB has been the weakest spot for RBNY. They've started six or seven different players in that spot. For such an important position on the field, it's been a bit of a revolving door.
My hope is that the Red Bulls will settle in a bit over the next couple of games. Damien Perrinelle was lost to ACL surgery at the end of last season. He has played in RBNY II's last game as well as Wednesday night's club friendly against Club America. Aurelien Collin has also been a strong addition to the back line.
Bradley Wright-Phillips has grabbed a handful of goals in 2016, but he is not producing at nearly the same rate as last season. Is there any reason to think that he can bounce back, or should the Red Bulls be looking to replace BWP and his oft-injured brother?
Bradley Wright-Phillips isn't going anywhere. He has scored 54 goals in all comps since joining the Red Bulls in mid-2013. He is deceptively fast and even though most of his goals come off through balls from the midfield, he is skillful with the ball at his feet and in open space. I believe the reason for BWP's drop off in production is that his teammates are looking to make the all-American pass every time they feed him. The team struggles when playing from behind. They get caught up in trying to force the ball forward (and in the air) but their best play occurs when they are playing into each other's feet. As long as MLS assist-leader, Sacha Kljestan and Felipe Martins can have time to look up and find him, BWP will build his goal tally again this season.
Shaun Wright-Phillips has been injured a bunch, but did you see that bicycle kick in Wednesday's win over Club America? Yes, it was right on the doorstep. But he's still got it. Either way, he has been getting playing time for the USL side to keep sharp. But players like Mike Grella newcomer and homegrown Alex Muyl have been performing well, so he normally stays put on the bench.
How did the team take the loss to NYCFC last weekend? What about the fans? How do you think both will bounce back this week?
We all knew that we had to lose to New York City FC eventually. It took all three of their high-priced DP's to get the job done. The Red Bulls still lead 4-1 in head-to-head match ups, outscoring them 14-4. The next game is at Red Bull Arena, so I know that no matter where either team is in the standings at the time, the players and fans will come looking for revenge. No one ever wants to lose, but NYCFC have been playing pretty well. Their current form has them on top of the East with 30 points.
On paper, the Red Bulls and Timbers seem evenly matched. They are only separated by one point, have scored the same amount of goals, but the Timbers have given up three more goals. (Yes, I understand the West is a tougher conference). Also, Adi and BWP each sit with nine goals and two assists. Competitive personalities would like to beat the best XI that an opponent could put out there, but maybe it's not a bad thing for the Red Bulls that Valeri is injured. It could be a good time to get back on track.