New York Soccer: JELD-WEN Field

W2W4: NY Red Bulls vs. Portland Timbers

September, 24, 2011
They've certainly talked the talk. Now it's time to walk the walk.

Three days after enduring a demoralizing 3-0 loss at home to Real Salt Lake as well as inflammatory post-game comments by Rafael Marquez, New York seeks to stabilize its form on Saturday Night at Red Bull Arena against a Portland Timbers side seeking to end the Red Bulls' postseason push. That's not to say Fabian Espindola's double against a dysfunctional Red Bulls defense will keep the Timbers out of focus this weekend, as the two sides faced off in a fast and furious 3-3 draw at Jeld-Wen Field in Portland on June 19.

Portland arrives at Red Bull Arena in sole possession of the final wild card berth after collecting one point at home in a 1-1 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Wednesday. Kenny Cooper chipped home a Darlington Nagbe cross to give the Timbers a lead in the 9th minute, only to see Khari Stephenson net the equalizer for the Quakes with 20 minutes to play.

Following Wednesday's draw, the Timbers (10-12-7, 37 pts) claimed a one-point lead among all MLS sides jockeying for the final wild card berth including the Red Bulls (7-7-15, 36 pts). D.C. United (8-8-11, 35 pts) surrendered a 2-2 draw to fringe postseason prospect Chivas USA (7-12-11, 32 pts) on Wednesday, but still possess two games in hand on both the Timbers and Red Bulls. Meanwhile, the Houston Dynamo (9-9-12, 39 pts) still stand in between the Red Bulls and the final Eastern Conference automatic berth following a 1-1 draw for the third-place Philadelphia Union (9-7-13, 40 pts) at Sporting Kansas City on Friday.

Rafa Remanded. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe suspended his Mexican center back for Saturday's match due to Marquez's comments criticizing his teammates including Tim Ream. Backe declared the issue an "internal" manner, but will need to externalize his resolution to Marquez's self-inflicted absence soon.

Marquez's suspension likely opens to the door to Stephen Keel pairing with Ream at center back, with Carlos Mendes stepping in at fullback in place of the injured Roy Miller and Chris Albright.

Key Matchup: NY's Back Line vs. Bruised Egos. Unfortunately for the Red Bulls back four, Marquez's comments touched a nerve exposed by the club's poor defensive form in recent weeks. Whether or not Marquez himself played above or below the level of his teammates is debatable, but the net result has been far below what one would expect of a club that entered the season with MLS Cup aspirations.

If Marquez's teammates want to prove him wrong, they'll need to start by making their own wrongs right on defense. With five games left in the season and a match against another side looking to benefit with a playoff berth at the Red Bulls expense, the back line simply has no time to brood over the disparaging comments made by Marquez. Backe will once again pick a makeshift back four against the Timbers, but it was a Marquez-less makeshift four that helped 'keeper Frank Rost collect his first MLS win and clean sheet just one week ago at FC Dallas.

Saturday's makeshift four will have their hands full keeping Cooper and Nagbe at bay while taking great care to not allow any free kicks in favorable positions for Timbers captain Jack Jewsbury. Ream, Keel, Mendes, and Jan Gunnar Solli know what they need to do -- but can they do it?

Fresh Start. New York's visit to Jeld-Wen Field earlier this season resulted in a wild finish and all the controversy that one can squeeze out of 90 minutes, but the players who led to that result are now out of the picture. Adam Moffat, who engaged Henry in a verbal exchange that resulted in a straight red card for the French striker, is now patrolling the midfield for the Dynamo after a July trade. Meanwhile, the man who scored the equalizer via penalty kick for the Red Bulls, Dwayne De Rosario, is now plying his trade for conference rival D.C. United.

That only leaves Henry with any kind of axe to grind for their recent history, with his teammates and the Portland Starting XI unlikely to feel compelled to seek revenge.

Edge of Glory. If the MLS regular season ended right now and the Red Bulls and Timbers were level in the standings, the Red Bulls would get the edge for the final wild card berth due to the league's tiebreaker scenarios. New York presently has a +3 goal differential as compared to Portland's -2, which isn't an insurmountable gap but should hold up over the final five matches.

However, a club's record in head-to-head matches trumps goal differential in playoff tiebreaker scenarios. Since the Red Bulls and Timbers battled to a draw in June, that means a win to either side would immediately give that victorious club the edge in tiebreakers while a draw would keep the edge at goal differential.

Down and Away. Portland has seen a fair amount of success in recent weeks, which includes three wins fueling a five-game unbeaten streak that has the Timbers right in the mix for a wild card berth. However, all three wins came in the cozy confines of Jeld-Wen Field.

The Timbers have not seen that kind of success on the road in their inaugural season, with a 1-4-8 record away for Jeld-Wen to show for their efforts. In fact, Portland has yet to score more than one goal in any MLS regular season game on the road. If there were ever a club whom the Red Bulls needed to run up the score against, it is this Timbers club.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Seattle Sounders

June, 23, 2011
New York continues its transcontinental tour as the Red Bulls visit the recently-renamed CenturyLink Field to face the Seattle Sounders on Thursday evening (10 p.m. ET, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes).

The Red Bulls find themselves in the middle of a three-game road trip after escaping Jeld-Wen Field with a 3-3 draw against the Portland Timbers on Sunday. Dwayne De Rosario converted the club's second penalty kick of the season to cap a tumultuous second half that opened with two quick goals by Jack Jewsbury and Kevin Goldwaithe of the Timbers and an own goal by Red Bulls central defender Stephen Keel. Thierry Henry recorded the soccer equivalent of the Gordie Howe hat trick by tallying a goal and assist before receiving a straight red card for striking Timbers midfielder Adam Moffat in the back of the head during stoppage time.

Seattle returns home after collecting a 1-o win over Toronto FC at BMO Field last Saturday. Colombian striker Freddy Montero scored the game winner in the 90' minute by curling a free kick from distance around the TFC wall and just inside the top corner of the right post. The Sounders carry a four-game unbeaten streak into Thursday's contest.

A scoreless draw at PPL Park brings the Philadelphia Union into a tie with the Red Bulls for first place in the Eastern Conference, with New York's 5-2-8 record falling one win below Philly's record of 6-4-5.

Help Wanted. Henry will miss Thursday's match due to the automatic one-game suspension that culminates from his red card. Luke Rodgers did not make the trip out west as he continues to rest the plantar fasciitis in his left foot. Wednesday's 1-0 win for the United States over Panama in the Gold Cup semifinals means Juan Agudelo remains committed to his national team responsibilities through Saturday. So what does that leave for the Red Bulls at forward?

Red Bulls coach Hans Backe indicated that De Rosario will start up top alongside Dane Richards, who returned to the club earlier this week after the US eliminated Jamaica from the Gold Cup quarterfinals on Sunday. Neither De Rosario nor Richards are strangers to the job, but they may be strangers to one another after last playing together on May 21 against the Houston Dynamo. They'll need to translate their midfield magic to the forward position in order to fuel one more makeshift Red Bulls attack.

Key Matchup: Red Bulls' Back Line vs. Freddy Montero. After Timbers team captain Jack Jewsbury opened the scoring in the 48' minute of last Sunday's match, the Red Bulls defense fell apart at the seams and found itself incapable of regaining the run of play from Portland. A New York 'keeper has not kept a clean sheet since Bouna Coundoul kept Sporting Kansas City scoreless on April 30, but the central defense took a major hit when stalwarts Tim Ream and Rafael Marquez departed for international duty in late May.

Enter Montero, whose goal against TFC last weekend should give him some positive momentum heading into Thursday's tilt. Montero is a dynamic playmaker and striker for the Sounders who could benefit from the pairing of Alvaro Fernandez and Erik Friberg regaining their form in the midfield. If Kassel and Carlos Mendes do not create enough disruption for the Sounders' passing lanes in the middle, it won't be long before Montero soils another sheet for a Red Bulls 'keeper.

Defense and Duct Tape. The Red Bulls will not be the only club struggling with a patchwork back line on Thursday. Colombian defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado received a red card in last Saturday's match at Toronto, rendering him unable to play and leaves Seattle coach Sigi Schmid looking to Patrick Ianni or Hawaiian defender Zach Scott for relief. The latter has played admirably in a reserve role, while the former has left enough room in his form for Scott to emerge. Both represent unknown quanities, and a potential hole for the Red Bulls' attack to exploit.

'Keeping the Faith. Despite the short work week and three-goal outburst by Portland, Backe indicated that he favors Greg Sutton to mind the net for New York. It's tough to blame the Canadian goalie for the complete failure by his defense in the second half at Portland, but Sutton would accrue seven consecutive caps with a start at Seattle while New York still faces two more matches against the Chicago Fire and FC New York in the next five days. Can Sutton handle the heavy workload?

Go Crazy, Folks. Go Crazy. While the Red Bulls successfully escaped the raucous atmosphere found in the cozy confines of Jeld-Wen Field, that experience may look quaint compared to what awaits at CenturyLink Field. The Sounders are expected to remove the tarps from the upper decks for the first time in anticipation of a crowd that could easily exceed 45,000.

New York could have brought the full onslaught of their supporters groups along for the ride and barely made a dent in what will likely be a very energetic and pro-Sounders audience. New York will need to keep the composure they lost in the second half last week and take charge in front of a big soccer crowd.

Rapid Reaction: Timbers 3, Red Bulls 3

June, 20, 2011
When New York claims to fight, scratch, and claw for every point, they mean it.

The scoring came fast and furious in a turbulent tilt at the cozy confines of Jeld-Wen Field on Sunday evening as the Red Bulls escaped with a 3-3 draw over the expansion Portland Timbers. Moments after Thierry Henry received a straight red card for a bad foul, Dwayne De Rosario scored a penalty kick in stoppage time to salvage the draw for a Red Bulls side that was moments away from seeing an own goal by defender Stephen Keel prove to be the game winner.

Austin da Luz converted a De Rosario cross five minutes in for his first career MLS goal, but the Timbers answered back with successive strikes by Jack Jewsbury and Kevin Goldthwaite that came about three and four minutes after halftime. Following Keel's gaffe, Henry delivered a goal from the left tip of the six-yard box to draw NY within one.

The draw gives New York a one-point edge over the Philadelphia Union atop the Eastern Conference with 23 points and a 5-2-8 record along with a six-game unbeaten streak.

Seeing Red. In a match that saw New York collect 25 fouls and five cards compared to Portland's five and two respectively, the coup de grace came in stoppage time as referee Ricardo Salazar issued a straight red card to Henry for slapping Adam Moffat in the back of the head during a verbal altercation. That disqualifies Henry from participating in their next match against Seattle on Thursday, and leaves Red Bulls coach Hans Backe with a gaping hole leading his side's attack.

New York kicked things off in the Rose City with bad news up top. Forward Luke Rodgers did not travel with the club to Portland and is expected to miss at least Thursday's match against the Sounders due to plantar faciitis. Also, a United States win over Jamaica in the Gold Cup quarterfinals means Juan Agudelo remains out of the Red Bulls' picture indefinitely.

The return of De Rosario -- who started alongside Henry at forward -- eased New York's depth problems on Sunday, but Backe will need to uncover creative solutions with the cavalry so far from shouting distance.

Play of the Game: Jewsbury's Goal. Portland did not register an attempt on goal until the 45' minute when Jewsbury headed a Kenny Cooper cross high and wide left of the net. Portland kept the passing pace with the surgical Red Bulls attack, but they simply could not create any kind of offensive pressure in the final third before halftime.

Jewsbury changed all that three minutes into the second half. The Timbers captain picked up Jan Gunnar Solli's poorly-directed header to the right of the arc and fired a low shot through traffic that wound up inside the far post. In addition to drawing the Timbers level with NY, it sparked the dormant Timbers Army into reminding the Red Bulls why Jeld-Wen Field can be such a tough place to play.

Keeling Over. Any chance for a Red Bulls comeback appeared slim when Jorge Perlaza directed a cross though the box in the 67' minute. A sprinting Stephen Keel looked to obstruct Perlaza's cross, but accidentally directed it into the wrong net for an own goal. It didn't help that Roy Miller was out of position on the play, either.

No part of the Red Bulls fell apart so completely after Jewsbury's goal as the back line did. Keel's misdirection merely added the exclamation point to it.

Fighting Spirit. Thierry Henry stopped the Timbers onslaught in the 73' minute with his league-leading eighth-goal of the season. Henry then followed Joel Lindpere into the net to retrieve the ball and rush it back to the center circle, only to incite a fracas with Timbers players who took offense to being shown up on their own pitch.

Even with the floodgates open, post-goal antics by Lindpere and Henry should remind the Red Bulls supporters that their club refused to go down without a fight.

Spot Check. The 2011 MLS season has seen six penalty kicks awarded -- with the Red Bulls being involved in all six. They missed two chances before De Ro's goal and saved three, which includes a Jack Jewsbury PK that bounced off the right post late in the second half.

The Red Bulls will remain out west for the time being as they prepare for Thursday's match against the Seattle Sounders at Qwest Field. First kick is scheduled for 10:00 p.m.

W2W4: NY Red Bulls at Portland Timbers

June, 19, 2011
The Red Bulls run for the Rose City on Sunday evening as they kick off an 11-day, three-game road trip against the expansion Portland Timbers at Jeld-Wen Field.

New York will look to continue their winning ways after collecting a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution nine days ago at Red Bull Arena. Thierry Henry played a pivotal role on both Red Bulls goals, as Henry scored the game-winner in the second half and also shot the ball that deflected off Revs defender Ryan Cochrane into the wrong net for an own goal.

Portland brings a three-game losing streak into Sunday's contest -- or four, if you include a friendly loss to AFC Ajax on May 25 -- after dropping a 1-0 result to the Colorado Rapids on June 11. The Timbers saw defender Futty Danso leave the pitch on a stretcher before Rapids defender Drew Moor finished a rebound in the penalty area during stoppage time.

Philadelphia lost to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday, leaving the Red Bulls tied with the Union atop the Eastern Conference with 22 points. However, the Union's 6-4-4 record is one win better than New York's 5-2-7 resume.

Into the Woods. Kevin Clark of the Wall Street Journal recently described the Red Bulls supporters' groups as "some of the craziest fans in New York," citing their passionate performances in the South Ward during every home game.

The NY supporters always make their presence felt, but they didn't make SportsCenter for their rendition of The Star-Spangled Banner. In their short MLS tenure, the Timbers Army helped create a reputation for Jeld-Wen Field as one of the rowdiest places to play in all of the league.

While the likes of Henry and former Tottenham midfielder Teemu Tainio should be familiar with such a European match atmosphere, the same can't be said for a make shift Red Bulls back line built of MLS career backs Carlos Mendes and Stephen Keel. If they can't keep their composure, the Timbers could make them pay dearly.

Key Matchup: NY's Defense v. Portland's Set Pieces. The Timbers love the set piece, with 10 of their 15 goals scored in 13 games this season culminating from the dead ball. And while Red Bulls 'keeper Greg Sutton has stopped two penalty kicks in as many weeks, NY's troubles with defending against the set piece are well documented in 2011.

While Timbers coach John Spencer -- who is suspended for Sunday's match due to his recent remarks about the refereeing -- rounded up many players capable of handling free kick duties, midfielder Jack Jewsbury tends to figure the most prominently in the role.

Without the set piece, Portland tends to find themselves competing against the run of play. The Red Bulls will need to flawlessly execute their zonal marking system when defending against the set piece, but they may find better success by being more judicious with their challenges.

Turf Warfare. Sunday's match in Portland marks the second time this season that the Red Bulls played on FieldTurf. While that should keep the ball moving on the pitch, the same can't be said for Tainio, Luke Rodgers, Joel Lindpere, and others with lingering injuries.

With a short period to recuperate before visiting the Seattle Sounders on Thursday, Red Bulls coach Hans Backe will likely take great care to protect the health of the squad still diminished by Gold Cup call-ups.

Laying the Golden Egg. Canadian midfielder Dwayne De Rosario returned to the Red Bulls last week after his Canadian side was eliminated from the Gold Cup. He should help lighten the offensive load carried by Henry and Rodgers over the past few weeks.

But De Ro's return may not have the biggest Gold Cup implications on the match. Before New York kicks off Sunday evening, they will know the result of the quarterfinal match between the United States and Jamaica. A US loss means Backe will have forward Juan Agudelo and defender Tim Ream back in the rotation, while a defeat for the Reggae Boyz means midfielder Dane Richards should return this week.

Depending on the US-Jamaica result, Backe may play his lineup differently to account for the depth at his disposal. He might let Henry play all out if Agudelo will be available Thursday, or might rely more on a midfield that will get a boost from Richards's return.

East Coast Bias. Three of the five Timbers wins at home have come against Eastern Conference teams. Only D.C. United left Portland with a positive result by collecting the first-ever win for an away team at Jeld-Wen Field on May 29.

Portland's 5-6-2 record may leave them mired in eighth place out west, but those 17 points would be good enough for a fifth-place tie with DC in the East. Considering that the majority of those wins came against teams chasing the Red Bulls, New York might as well consider Sunday's tilt as a conference clash.

RBNY Recap: Red Bulls 2, Revolution 1

June, 10, 2011
As right back Ryan Cochrane unfortunately proved, the best Red Bulls offense can be the Revs' defense.

New York can finally describe its recent winless streak in the past tense after collecting a 2-1 victory on Friday evening over the struggling New England Revolution. While the Revs opened the scoring in the first half, they did so for the wrong side as Cochrane deflected a Thierry Henry shot into the wrong net for an own goal.

Henry added an insurance goal in the 50' minute by dribbling past Cochrane on the right side and tapping a low shot inside the far post past Revs 'keeper Matt Reis. NE forward Zak Boggs answered Henry's goal moments later by picking up a Chris Tierney cross just to the right of the six-yard-box and shooting it to the left of a diving Greg Sutton for the Revs' only goal.

The win gives New York a 5-2-7 record and a one-point lead over the Philadelphia Union for first place in the Eastern Conference. The Union kick off on Saturday afternoon at home against Real Salt Lake.

It's How You Play the Game. New York managed an 11-point edge over the Revs on possession (55.8%-to-44.2%) and appeared to find the passing touch that gave opposing defenses fits earlier this season.

Despite that progress, the Red Bulls still struggled to provide sufficient service to the forwards up top and endured a great deal of pressure in the second half after New England reverted to a very-productive 4-4-2 formation.

The numbers will demonstrate how New York held on for the win, but Red Bulls coach Hans Backe should further emphasize cohesion on the pitch to convert the failed conversions of Friday's match into strong finishes going forward.

Play of the Game: Sutton's PK Save. Referee Terry Vaughn awarded the Revs with a penalty kick in the 33' minute after Red Bulls rookie defender Stephen Keel received a yellow card for bringing down Revs forward Rajko Lekic in the box. Revs midfielder and longtime RBNY pest Shalrie Joseph stepped up to the spot for the PK and aimed low and to the right -- and right into a diving Sutton.

Though the Revs only mustered four shots on target against NY, Sutton's save precluded his side from conceding yet another early lead and playing catch up. It notably changed the tempo on the pitch and the enthusiasm from the stands, which may have contributed to the flurry which resulted in Cochrane's own goal less than four minutes later.

If Sutton misses Joseph's kick, the headline involves the Red Bulls' troubles with dead balls. Instead, the headline involves Sutton putting his mark on the first Red Bulls win since April with a highlight reel save.

Maintaining the Middle Ground. The midfield duo of Joel Lindpere and Teemu Tainio dictated the pace for the Red Bulls on both ends of the ball. It just did not do enough to counter the inconsistent run of form that held back Mehdi Ballouchy and Austin da Luz.

Ballouchy's questionable touches on the ball culminated with his failure to redirect a pinpoint cross from Henry in the penalty box towards a wide open net in the 76' minute. Da Luz did not have so prominent a miss, but frequently struggled with his passing decisions and often put too much touch on the ball to the detriment of the Red Bulls' attack.

Shiny, Happy People. The announced attendance of 21,201 actually resembled the fans in the stands rather than approximation of tickets sold. The Red Bulls have seen the turnstiles spin a great deal lately, which has started to create a more energetic, soccer-friendly atmosphere at Red Bull Arena. It was a fitting sendoff as New York departs for a four-game road trip.

Change at the Top. Shortly before first kick, the Red Bulls announced that longtime NBA executive Chris Heck will join the organization as the club's President of Business Operations. Heck will replace Erik Stover, who is stepping down from the post after serving in the role since May 2008. Stover has overseen exponential growth in sponsorships and season ticket sales for New York and is often credited with playing a vital role in the Red Bulls' recruitment of Thierry Henry from Europe.

The Red Bulls will get their first glimpse of raucous JELD-WEN Field as they take the pitch against the expansion Portland Timbers on Father's Day. First kick is schedule for 10 p.m. on Sunday, June 19.