Coming off their worst loss of the season six days ago in Toronto, the Portland Timbers return home for a nationally-televised Friday night showdown with the New York Red Bulls (7:00 p.m., TV on Fox Sports 1).
It's starting to be crunch time for the Timbers. Portland currently sits in fifth place in the Western Conference, but San Jose and Vancouver — two and three points behind respectively — have games in hand. Caleb Porter's team needs a big performance.
This will be the Red Bulls' second trip to Portland under Jesse Marsch, and first in nearly in two years.
The club's first trip under Marsch, which came back September of 2015, resulted in a statement 2-0 win for a Red Bulls team that would go on to claim its second Supporters' Shield. The Timbers, meanwhile, would only lose one of their next eleven on their way to winning MLS Cup.
The other two games between the Red Bulls and Timbers in Portland — in 2011 and 2013 — both finished 3-3. The Red Bulls tied the 2011 game on a 95th minute penalty from Dwayne De Rosario, taken two minutes after Thierry Henry had been sent off for slapping Adam Moffat. The 2013 game, on Opening Day, featured the MLS managerial debuts of both Caleb Porter and Mike Petke.
Last year's meeting between the two clubs resulted in a drab 0-0 draw in Harrison. The Timbers haven't played a 0-0 draw since, while the Red Bulls have played just one — back on March 25th against Real Salt Lake.
The Timbers will again be without Fanendo Adi and Liam Ridgewell, who both missed the Toronto game last weekend. Adi could be back as soon as next Wednesday's game against Colorado, while Ridgewell won't be back until the end of the month at the earliest.
Add to the injured list goalkeeper Jake Gleeson, who was forced off early in the match last weekend and will miss the game on Friday night. Jeff Attinella will make his fifth start of the season, and first since a poor outing in Minnesota in late June.
Porter promised recriminations for the way his team fell apart in the second half against TFC, and there should be changes along the backline. Roy Miller will return from suspension and slide in at center back alongside Larrys Mabiala, while Alvas Powell — at fault for another bad goal last weekend — could make way for Zarek Valentin.
But the biggest decision for Porter — and the one he took the most heat for last week — comes in Adi's place at forward. Darren Mattocks got the call last weekend, but was outshone by Jeremy Ebobisse in the rookie's fifteen minute cameo. By all logic, Ebobisse should make his first home start tonight.
The Red Bulls come into Portland playing their best soccer year. They've won six of seven, jumped up to fourth in the Supporters' Shield race, and, as of Tuesday night's thrilling, come-from-behind win in Cincinnati, are into the final of the U.S. Open Cup.
But because of that game on Tuesday — in which the Red Bulls played mostly a first-choice team — they are expected to field a weakened side tonight.
1 - Attinella
5 - Vytas
7 - Miller
33 - Mabiala
16 - Valentin
20 - Guzman
21 - Chara
10 - Blanco
8 - Valeri (C)
6 - Nagbe
17 - Ebobisse
With the Red Bulls having endeavored so greatly in Cincinnati on Tuesday night and expecting to play a rotated team, the Timbers should have the upper hand. They win 2-1.