The Portland Timbers tied their record for home losses in a season on Wednesday night, dropping a 2-0 result to the New York Red Bulls at Providence Park. The Timbers looked out of sorts as they trailed for ninety-five minutes of play in front of an anemic weekday crowd.
The silence of the Timbers Army through the first three minutes of the match served as the backdrop for New York’s opening goal. In the third minute, a misplaced pass from Bill Tuiloma was picked off by the Red Bulls in the Timbers’ end and the visitors immediately threw themselves into the attack. A quick series of passes around the Timbers’ box put the home side off balance before a ball crossed through the box rolled into the path of Kyle Duncan arriving at the back post. With only Steve Clark between him and the Timbers’ goal, Duncan hit a strong shot that gave Clark no chance at the save before it hit the back of the net.
The visitors came close to extending their lead in the 6th minute, when Josh Sims worked his way into the Timbers box and managed to slip a low shot through traffic, forcing a save from Clark. Although he made the initial stop, Clark could only knock the ball away from goal and into the box where it bounced toward Red Bulls striker Tom Barlow. With an open goal in front of him, Barlow looked primed for a simple but awkward tap-in, only for Tuiloma to arrive just in time and clear the ball off the line.
With the Timbers looking to fight themselves back into the match, the chances continued to come for the visitors and, in the 12th minute, Barlow again had a chance to extend the lead. Running off the back shoulder of his defender, Barlow broke in behind the Timbers back line and ran onto a well-weighted ball from Marc Rzatkowski. Taking the ball down cleanly, Barlow fired off a quick shot on goal from inside the box, but Clark was up for the moment and made the save.
The Timbers finally managed a chance in the fifteenth minute. Off a short corner kick from Diego Valeri and with defenders closing him down, Tomas Conechny fired a hard cross into the box that slapped off the chest of a defender and fell back into his path. With the ball bouncing in front of him, Conechny hit a dipping volley through traffic toward goal, only for his attempt to go untouched as it skipped wide of the far post.
The Timbers came even closer to evening up the scoreline in the 19th minute when a well worked break down the pitch put Valeri into a footrace for a ball over the top with New York full back Kemar Lawrence. Just as it appeared that Lawrence would get control of the ball, Valeri stuck out a boot and chipped the ball into the center of the box just ahead of Diego Chara’s run. With only Luis Robles in front of him, Chara brought the ball down and looked to beat the Red Bulls keeper only for his looping shot to crash off the bar before being cleared away to safety.
Just as it appeared that the momentum of the match had tuned in the Timbers favor, New York again found an opening and forced Clark into his third save of the night. A simple pass forward from Rzatkowski found Sims in the Timbers box where the Red Bulls youngster fired off a quick, high shot at the near post that forced Clark to shoot a hand up into the air and deflect the ball over the bar.
After the breakneck pace of the first quarter of the match, both sides began to settle in and clear chances were difficult to come by.
It wasn’t until the 35th minute that the Timbers managed their next threatening chance. When Valeri found Conechny wide on the right in the attacking end, the younger Argentine shifted the ball onto his left foot, stepped toward the center of the pitch, and looked to place a shot inside the far post. Although the ball seemed to have Robles beaten, it was not quite on target and floated just wide of the post.
Finally, in the opening minutes of the second half the Timbers forced Robles into his first save of the night. Moments after a Valeri free kick was cleared away from the Red Bulls box, Brian Fernandez played a ball back across the face of goal. The cross found Tuiloma in between the Red Bulls center backs and the New Zealander leaned into the ball, putting a strong header on goal but right at Robles who made the straightforward save.
The Timbers got another save out of Robles in the 66th minute when Jeremy Ebobisse rose up out of a pack of defenders to put a head on a corner kick from Valeri and send the ball toward goal. Just like Tuiloma’s chance, however, Ebobisse put his header right at Robles who again made the save.
Ebobisse had a second chance at pulling the Timbers even in the 82nd minute, when a looping ball over the top from Sebastian Blanco found him in stride. Ebobisse brought the ball down and, one on one with Robles, looked to pick out the near post with a side footed shot, but instead rolled the ball just wide of the woodwork.
With the chances drying up for the Timbers in second half stoppage time, the Red Bulls put the game conclusively to bed when Jorge Moreira was judged to have taken down Rzatkowski in the Timbers box. While the Timbers protested that he had gotten the ball, referee Alan Kelly ultimately upheld the penalty. With the ball at the spot, Red Bulls stalwart Daniel Royer stepped up and, with a slight hesitation, buried the ball past Clark for the 2-0 lead.
The Timbers have three days to rest up before they are back at it, hosting Western Conference playoff side Minnesota United to mark the halfway point of their stretch of five games in fifteen days.