The New York Red Bulls and the MLS incarnation of the Portland Timbers will face off for the first time on Sunday night at Jeld-Wen Field. In order to prepare you for the match, we put together the usual three question preview with Geoff Gibson of Stumptown Footy.
Once A Metro's Questions for Stumptown Footy
1) Diego Chará is probably the league's most anonymous DP in terms of press. Could you fill us in on how the Colombian has adjusted to MLS and what we can expect from him this weekend? Also, would you consider Chará the star of Portland? If not, who fills that role if the Timbers' even have one?
Stumptown Footy: Well, first I think that the reason why Diego Chara is so "anonymous" in terms of his Designated Player status is because he's not really a DP. He's only listed as such for the remainder of the MLS season due to his transfer fee. He actually he makes significantly less than some other Timbers players.
That said, he's a fighter in the midfield, something I don't think very many people were expecting from him given his relative size. He's constantly battling for the ball and is quite strong when going up against larger opponents. It also helps that, technically, he is very skilled so rarely is he easily shrugged off a ball when he's going for it.
As for the "star" no it's not Diego Chara. Truth be told, there's not a singular person on Timbers you could label as being the star. Kenny Cooper, Jack Jewsbury, Eric Brunner, Futty Danso, Jorge Perlaza, etc. each player could easily be considered the star of the team for various reasons and this shows when you take a cursory at various jersey's worn by the fans as most sport a different name.
2) What type of atmosphere should be expected from Jeld-Wen? Have the stands tempered since the opening few matches or are they still wild?
Stumptown Footy: Loud, raucous, rowdy, but very positive. The Timbers Army is, as you no doubt have heard, a very organized and very loud supporters group. Where they differ from some other supporters groups, however, is they're generally more positive than negative. By that I mean, most official chants are directed at the Portland Timbers players on the field not the opposing team. You might hear some chants concerning the referee or if the fans think an opposing player took a dive, but really it's all about building up the Timbers, not tearing down the opposing team.
As for being tempered. Not in the slightest. I think some may think that given the Timbers recent run of form or that the TV stations don't show them as often, but really they're just as loud and raucous as ever.
3) Finally, how do you see the Timbers adjusting to the absence of Futty Danso? Is there a natural replacement for the Gambian?
Stumptown Footy: The loss of Futty is going to be difficult. Hopefully he makes a speedy return and is able to play in next week's game. That said, David Horst has proven himself to be a competent center back. My only worry is with two fairly young center backs there's going to be more than a few mistakes that will be exploited by Thierry Henry and company. Suffice it to say, I'm quite happy so many Red Bulls players are missing in action for Sundays game.
And now Stumptown Footy's questions for Once A Metro:
1) Juan Agudelo is out for the Gold Cup and Luke Rodgers might not play due to injuries. How does this affect the New York Red Bulls striking opportunities come Sunday?
Once A Metro: Hans Backe now anticipates that his English striker will appear against Portland, but if Rodgers ends up scratching, the Swede will have a bit of dilemma. I doubt that Backe would decide to depart from his 4-4-2, which means that he has to find another forward to partner with Thierry Henry. This leaves two options: Dwayne De Rosario and Cory Hertzog. DDR has returned from the Gold Cup and is the more sensible option as New York has cover for the the Canadian in the central midfield. Hertzog got some time against the Revolution, but he still looks extremely green and probably isn't prepared yet to start an away match.
2) The Gold Cup has been particularly challenging for the Red Bulls with Agudelo, Dane Richards and Tim Ream being absent. How have they performed since the start of the Cup? Who slots into their positions now that they're gone?
Once A Metro: The greatest deficiency for New York during the Gold Cup has been in central defense. Rafa Márquez and Ream leaving created a void that Carlos Mendes and Stephen Keel haven't been able to fill. Mendes is a quality third center-back and Keel isn't a poor fourth option; the pair together, however, has not worked. Agudelo is probably the least missed out of RBNY's Gold Cup quintet, but the American provides an exciting attacking option off the bench that New York lacks at the moment. Richards' speed and improving savvy offers a threat from the wing that Austin da Luz and Mehdi Ballouchy haven't been able to replicate. All of these absences have led to a palpable dip in form and a series of ties that the club wasn't able to break until the victory against New England last Friday.
3) Thierry Henry is obviously going to be a large threat, but who are some other players the Timbers should watch out for?
Once A Metro: If Teemu Tainio, Joel Lindpere, and Rodgers play, the Timbers should be wary of the trio. They all are poised veterans that affect matches in different ways. Tainio searches and destroys while also being an extremely efficient distributor. Lindpere charges down the left flank and through the central midfield, aiding in both the attack and the defense. Rodgers is the perfect foil for Henry; his runs create the space that allow the Frenchman to take advantage of less adroit back-lines. Jan Gunnar Solli, in my eyes MLS's best right-back, should also be observed.
RBNY Starting Lineup (Left to Right): Greg Sutton; Roy Miller, Carlos Mendes, Stephen Keel, Jan Gunnar Solli; Joel Lindpere, Teemu Tainio, Dwayne De Rosario, Mehdi Ballouchy; Thierry Henry, Luke Rodgers