It has been nothing but good results for the New York Red Bulls to start the year. A 1-1 away draw followed by back to back 2-0 victories have the team in a good spot heading into the new MLS season. Now, they host the Portland Timbers in their first league match.
Most clubs already have one match under their belt in the league, including the Timbers. They traveled to the Stubhub Center to take on the LA Galaxy in their first match, ultimately losing 2-1.
Two quick first half goals shocked Portland, but a Sebastian Blanco goal in the 66th minute gave them life. They were unable to break through for another, though, and the Galaxy held on to claim all three points.
Portland was without Diego Chara against the Galaxy, and it looks as if the Colombian could sit out another match. Chara suffered a broken foot in October last season and could be back within the next few weeks. The Timbers did still have Diego Valeri and Fernando Adi on the field, who are always capable of taking over a game.
The Red Bulls defense will have to be aware of Adi and his powerful heading ability. Tim Parker played a phenomenal debut game against Tijuana, but it is unsure whether or not he, and many other first teamers, will even be in the starting 18. This is due to the second leg of the CONCACAF Champions League match against Tijuana that takes place just three days after the Portland match.
This most likely means that the big names on the team will not see many minutes, if any at all. Of all the starters against Tijuana in the first leg, the only players that could see significant game time against Portland are Luis Robles, Aaron Long and Kemar Lawrence. Tyler Adams could also start, but should be subbed off fairly early on to rest him for the upcoming match.
Aurelien Collin should also see a return to the starting lineup after missing the Tijuana match. He will match up well against Adi as both players always love a good physical battle in the box. This means whoever partners with Collin needs to be aware of Blanco and Valeri making late runs into the box. They could also just try and isolate Collin, who again is being abused for his lack of pace and poor defensive decision making.
Kaku will also be starting this match, as he did not see any game time against Tijuana. The Argentinian was lively in the second leg match against Olimpia, so it will be exciting to see him on the field for what is likely to be a full 90 minutes.
It is hard to say which way this game will go. Portland has a huge two week break following the match against the Red Bulls, so head coach Giovanni Savarese should be going all out to get a result away from home.
New York would love to start the MLS season on a high note in front of their home fans, but it will not be easy without the likes of Wright-Phillips and company. Marsch should target the left side of Portland’s defense, mainly because the inexperienced 19 year old Marco Farfan will be starting there. Overlapping runs on the right side could be fruitful for the Red Bulls throughout the match.
In all honesty, though, the real focus will be on the match against Tijuana three days later. A loss is never a good result, especially when it is the first home match of the season. However, given the situation the Red Bulls are in, they need to be content with dropping points to secure a pass to the semi finals of the CONCACAF Champions League.