Harrison, NJ – After both teams featured in midweek Major League Soccer fixtures, Red Bull New York and the Portland Timbers square off at Red Bull Arena on Saturday with major playoff implications looming.
After an impressive win at FC Dallas last weekend, New York suffered a humiliating 3-1 home loss to Real Salt Lake on Wednesday. Portland surrendered a second half goal to Khari Stephenson to draw the San Jose Earthquakes in its midweek clash.
The results put Portland one point ahead of New York for the final wild card playoff spot. With four of New York's five remaining matches coming against teams that are currently sitting in playoff position, head coach Hans Backe feels that winning three or four should complete the task.
"We need to pick up wins, that's for sure," Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe told MLSsoccer.com. "I think it's good for us to play the playoff teams now so we really know what we have to do. Probably three or four wins out of five to make the playoffs."
For Luke Rodgers, a win against Portland would help the team throw Wednesday's loss to Salt Lake out the window.
"If someone would have said to us at the beginning of [last] week you're going to win two and lose one, I think we would have took it," Rodgers told MLSsoccer.com. "If we can go out and get a win on Saturday, we've got two good results. Plus, it's against Portland as well, which we need, so it's classed as double points. So if we can win on Saturday, we can forget about this."
Saturday's tilt is a true "six-pointer" that would not only see the winner claim three points, but would deny another playoff hopeful a chance to pull ahead.
Despite the importance of the match, Portland head coach John Spencer is taking the same approach as always.
"It's not always about style and substance, sometimes you've just got to go and dig deep and try and get something and sneak a win," Spencer said. "We'll approach the game against Red Bulls this weekend the same way as we approached the game [Wednesday], try and get three points."
The mentality seems to have worked for Portland lately, as the Timbers are unbeaten in their last five matches. They have posted a 3-0-2 record over that stretch.
The Timbers and Red Bulls played to a 3-3 draw at Jeld-Wen Field earlier this season, a match that erupted with five second-half goals. Austin Da Luz, Thierry Henry, and Dwayne De Rosario all scored for New York, while Portland got goals from Jack Jewsbury, Kevin Goldthwaite, and an own goal from Stephen Keel.