Timbers-Red Bulls Preview
The New York Red Bulls are trying not to be overconfident about facing the lowly Portland Timbers.
The Red Bulls will be the more rested team and bring in an unbeaten home record Sunday night against the lone winless road team in MLS.
New York (12-7-5) is 8-0-3 at home to match Houston for the league's best mark while Portland (5-12-6) is 0-8-3 on the road after a 2-2 draw at Toronto FC on Wednesday.
The Red Bulls have not played since last Friday's 2-0 victory over the Dynamo. That's the same score they won by the last time these teams met when the Timbers visited Sept. 24, 2011.
Portland is 0-5-2 in its last seven overall, with the past six coming since Gavin Wilkinson took over as interim coach following the departure of John Spencer.
Although all signs seemingly point to a victory, New York is insisting Sunday's game will be difficult.
"In this league, you always think sometimes that you might have an easy game, but it's never an easy game," star forward Thierry Henry said.
Wilkinson didn't like the body language of his players Wednesday. The Timbers blew a one-goal halftime lead and fell behind before Darlington Nagbe tied the game in the 82nd minute in a matchup of the league's worst teams.
"We lacked a bit of confidence and you can see it in the players," Wilkinson said. "It's a draw on the road, we scored two goals, it's a good thing for us and we have a lot to look forward to."
Portland has allowed at least one goal in 13 consecutive matches and has been outscored 18-6 during its current winless run.
The Red Bulls have scored in every game at home, where they have posted shutouts in winning three straight. Markus Holgersson and substitute Jan Gunnar Solli scored in last weekend's victory.
That contest marked Australian midfielder Tim Cahill's first home game since he officially joined the team from English Premier League club Everton on July 30. Cahill is stressing fundamentals for New York.
"We're sitting in good position in the table but the same discipline and consistency from the last game has to be brought into Portland, really focus on our positives and cut out the errors," Cahill said. "For us, if we do that, we're a very decent team."
One familiar face to Portland is forward Kenny Cooper, who leads New York with 13 goals but has only two over his last 11 games. Cooper scored a team-high eight times last year in the Timbers' expansion season before he was traded to the Red Bulls in January.
"It was a special time in my life, being a part of the Timbers' inaugural season in the MLS," Cooper told the Red Bulls' official website.
Coach Hans Backe, who could opt to use Sebastien Le Toux over Cooper, is stressing not to overlook Portland.
"It doesn't matter who you play in this league, I mean that's what it's all about," Backe said. "Every game is even, you have to just have the same attitude, spirit as we had against Houston at home."