By Will Conwell
Game 30: Timbers (10W-12L-7T) vs NY Red Bulls (7W-7L-15T)
Saturday, September 24, 4:30 p.m.
Previous match-up(s): 6/19/11 3-3 Tie
Portland Timbers Coverage on PDX Pipeline here.
Watch Timbers vs NY Red Bulls In Portland:
East Burnside: East Burn has game inside & on projection screen on Patio. Pearl, SE, Tigard: Blitz has the games on their many HD televisions in all locations with drink/beer specials. More info here.
In the final weeks of Major League Soccer's regular season, each game is gaining in importance for the Portland Timbers. The New York Red Bulls are in direct competition with the Timbers for one of the last playoff spots and a loss for Portland would be disastrous while an away win would greatly improve their chances of advancing to the postseason.
With games remaining against fellow contenders for the final playoff positions DC United and the Houston Dynamo coming up as well, the Timbers are in a unique position to control their own destiny. However, with all but one of the Timbers remaining games, this will be no easy task.
Today's must-win match against New York sees the Timbers visiting a home side that have been in turmoil since the first half of the season. After looking strong early in the year and being the picks of many to be a top team in the league, the Red Bulls have only managed one win in their last ten games. Piled on top of this rough streak is the suspension of Mexican national team captain Rafa Marquez who, after New York's Wednesday night loss to Real Salt Lake, ripped into his teammates and was subsequently suspended for tonight's match by coach Hans Backe.
Without Marquez on the back line the Red Bulls will need to rely on the services of MLS veteran Carlos Mendes and second year man Tim Ream to man the central defence. While Ream was called up to the national team after his play in 2010, he has hit the dreaded sophomore slump this season and has been unable to replicate his form from last year that saw him narrowly miss out on rookie of the year honors.
In the two teams' last meeting, a 3-3 goal fest in Portland, it was the New York forwards who most impressed with Dwayne DeRosario and French legend Thierry Henry sparking a second half comeback for the Red Bulls. Since then DeRo has moved on to yet another Timbers foe, DC United, only to be replaced by the most famous temporary-Timber Dax McCarthy. McCarthy was the Timbers first pick in the Expansion draft only to be traded immediately to DC for Rodney Wallace.
The Timbers meanwhile will be thankful to have gotten through the midweek game without any new injuries that will require missed time. Darlington Nagbe was on the receiving end a a kick to the head from the typically physical San Jose defense, but appears to have recovered fully and will likely start up front once again. Defender David Horst will also have benefited from some additional time off and should be returning to full fitness, but will likely remain on the bench behind Futty Danso.
New York, despite greatly missing the creative talents of Dwayne DeRosario in the midfield, still possess potent offensive threats in Thierry Henry, Luke Rogers, and Juan Agudelo. All three are capable of playing the fast break and, while Rogers could certianly be classified as ¬Å“scrappy¬Â, Henry and Agudelo are both excellent technicians with the ball who are more than capable of beating players on the dribble. The Timbers defense will need to play accordingly and concentrate on containing New York's danger men.
A patch-work New York back line will be determined to show their fans that they are not as bad as Rafa Marquez seems to think and will likely play a high intensity brand of soccer. They have been prone to mistakes this year and the Timbers will need to pressure them to make more. Drawing fouls around the box will make the Timbers job much easier as, despite Ream's height, the Red Bulls and their goal keeper Bouna Condoul have shown some weakness in the air this year.
TOP 5 GOAL SCORERS
1. Jack Jewsbury – 7
3. Tie: Jorge Perlaza/Kenny Cooper – 6
4. Eric Brunner – 3
8. Tie: Rodney Wallace/Mamadu ¬Å“Futty¬Â Danso/Diego Chara/Darlington Nagbe – 2
LAST 4 MATCHES
10/2 @ Vancouver
10/14 vs Houston
10/19 @ DC
10/22 @ Salt Lake
Every point the Timbers can pick up is good and every point they can deny to their opponents is better. To make the playoffs the Timbers will likely need at least one win on the road in their final five games and few teams are looking as vulnerable as New York is right now.
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Will Conwell is an aspiring novelist who spends his free time unloading trucks in warehouses. His passions in life are soccer, beer, and writing, which he has found are best enjoyed in concert. Will can be contacted at[email protected] or on twitter at TimbersPipeline.