PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) Felipe and Damien Perrinelle scored 3 minutes apart late in the first half and the New York Red Bulls beat the Portland Timbers 2-0 on Sunday to become the first MLS team to clinch a playoff spot.
New York (14-8-6) rebounded for a loss at New England on Wednesday night to move into first place in the Eastern Conference, a point ahead of Columbus. The Red Bulls have won three of four and 11 of 14.
”It was a very good first half, specifically, but a very good performance to get a shutout against a team like this, in an environment like this, on the road,” New York coach Jesse Marsch said. ”We weren’t happy with the performance in New England. For these guys to come back and lay it all out here like this and empty the tank certainly shows a lot about their character.”
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Portland (11-10-8) remained sixth in the Western Conference, a point ahead of San Jose for the last Western Conference playoff spot. The Timbers are winless in four games.
”I can’t understand why, in that first half, we came out the way that we did,” Portland coach Caleb Porter said. ”It’s very disappointing. … The first two goals were out of nothing. They were soft goals.”
Felipe opened the scoring in the 43rd minute. After receiving a throw-in near midfield, the midfielder slowly dribbled toward the goal. With no defenders applying pressure, Felipe had time to measure his shot from 30 yards and blasted the ball over goalkeeper Adam Kwarasey for his third goal of the season.
New York nearly scored a minute later when a corner kick wasn’t cleared and a header was sent toward the goal, but defender Alvas Powell cleared the shot off the goal line.
The second goal came a few seconds later, when Sacha Kljestan sent a looping cross from the right sideline into the penalty area, where Perrinelle jumped to head a floating shot over Kwarasey and into the net for his second goal of the season.
Luis Robles made four saves for his ninth shutout of the season. He made two saves in the 87th minute. Diego Valeri’s free kick deflected off the wall, forcing Robles to scramble to his left to smother the shot, then block the follow-up attempt by Nat Borchers out for a corner kick.
”I think we showed a lot of things,” Marsch said. ”We showed that when we are committed to play the way we want to play, that we can really command the game. We showed that we’re a deep team and that when guys step on the field, that they’re talented and know their roles. We showed that this team has heart and belief in what they are and who they are.”