Red Bulls defeat Portland Timbers 3-2
Red Bulls defender Heath Pearce leaps up for the winning goal. Photo by Michael Anderer.
The Red Bulls came back from a 2-0 deficit to defeat the Portland Timbers 3-2 at Red Bull Arena on Sunday night in front of 19,043 fans. It was an exciting and very dramatic game as the Red Bulls started off playing very poorly. Portland dominated the early part of the game as Darlington Nagbe and the Timbers owned the midfield, not allowing the Red Bulls to generate much of an attack. Sal Zizzo had a tremendous amount of space on the right side, and used it to run through the Red Bulls and generate Portland's first goal through Bright Dike. Zizzo stripped Roy Miller of the ball and helped to create Portland's second goal in the 32nd minute by Nagbe.
Both teams started the game with their leading scorers in Kris Boyd for Portland and Kenny Cooper for the Red Bulls on the bench. Red Bulls coach Hans Backe quickly rectified this by bringing Cooper on for Miller in the 36th minute and reorganizing his defense. This helped to change the momentum as Cooper scored in the 42nd minute on a header from a nice cross by Jan Gunnar Solli. Just before half-time, Australian international Tim Cahill was able to get his first Red Bulls goal on a controversial call by referee Jason Anno. It seemed that Portland had committed a hand ball, which would have led to a penalty kick for the Red Bulls. Anno also seemed to blow his whistle, but Cahill proceeded to smash the ball into the net and the goal was allowed to stand. Some of the Portland players and coach Gavin Wilkinson had a lot to say to the referee as he walked off the field for half-time.
Both teams came out in the second half looking to get a lead and take control of the game. The action went back and forth with Portland getting several good scoring chances. The Red Bulls were kept in the game by a series of nice saves from goalie Bill Gaudette. Dike seemed to be less active as the game wore on, but Wilkinson brought Mike Fucito on to replace him in the 74th minute instead of the former Rangers man Kris Boyd. I asked Boyd after the game why he didn't get into the game and he explained that it was Wilkinson's call and he was healthy enough to play.
The Red Bulls were also able to generate some scoring chances and nearly went ahead, but were shut down on a series of nice saves from Portland goalie Donovan Ricketts off shots by Thierry Henry and Sebastian Le Toux. Finally, in the 83rd minute Cooper and Solli combined to send a nice cross into the middle, which was met by a header from Heath Pearce to give the Red Bulls the lead. They were able to hold on for the final few minutes and get the win.
After the game, Backe was clearly frustrated that his team had to put so much work into getting a win against a Portland team that hasn't had a good season. It was a good learning experience for Backe though as Kenny Cooper clearly showed that he should be in the starting XI. Roy Miller also showed that he shouldn't. Backe wouldn't go so far as to say that Miller played himself out of the lineup, but Backe also couldn't recall the last time he substituted a player in the 36th minute. The game also showed that the Red Bulls need to figure out a way to get Cahill further up the field into a more attacking position. This is the role he had at Everton and it was very effective.