Timbers MatchDay: at Red Bulls

By Paul Danzer, Columbian community sports reporter

Published:

 

Timbers at New York

Kickoff: 4 p.m. Saturday at Red Bull Arena, Harrison, N.J.

TV: ROOT, cable ch. 34.

Radio: 750 AM.

Timbers (1-3-7, 10 points): In just over a week, the Timbers season could look much different — or more bleak. Saturday’s match is the first of three over nine days, meaning wins could lift Portland into the upper half of the Western Conference. But the challenge will be significant, traveling to New Jersey, then to Los Angeles for a Wednesday match against Chivas USA before returning home to host the Vancouver Whitecaps on June 1. The Timbers are a bit thin at fullback. Alvas Powell is suspended for the games against New York and Chivas, and Michael Harrington is still hobbled by an ankle injury. Look for Jorgé Villafaña to get his first start for the Timbers at left back. Workhorse defensive midfielder Diego Chara, who missed last Saturday’s draw with Columbus, should be available after returning to training this week following surgery for a broken hand.

On offense, the Timbers are healthier — both physically and emotionally — after scoring three goals last weekend for the second time in three matches. Steve Zakuani appears to finally be fit after playing the whole match against Columbus on the left wing. New arrival Fanendo Adi contributed an assist with his head in only seven minutes against Columbus, and gives the Timbers a target presence in the 18-yard box to complement the skills of Maximilano Urruti and Gastón Fernandez, who along with Darlington Nagbe and Diego Valeri seem to be developing better chemistry and confidence. Scoring will be critical if Portland is going to make up ground on this road trip. Through four road games, the Timbers have scored only twice.

Red Bulls (3-4-5, 14 points): New York has lost consecutive games for the first time this season and was shut out for only the second time this season in last week’s 2-0 loss to Toronto. English striker Bradley Wright-Phillips has nine goals in 11 games for the Red Bulls — eight in the last five including a pair of hat tricks. Thierry Henry, who turns 37 in August, has three goals and four assists. Midfielder-forward Peguy Luyindula (two goals this season) might play after missing his first game of the season last week with a calf injury. Like Portland, New York has had struggles on defense, so perhaps this match will be similar to the wild 3-3 draw these teams played in the 2013 season opener at Portland. The Red Bulls feature two former Timbers in midfielder Eric Alexander and fullback Kosuke Kimura.