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Red Bulls top Timbers to move back into playoff position

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The New York Red Bulls desperately needed a win on Saturday night and responded to that pressure with one of their better performances in recent memory.

The Portland Timbers also came into the match needing a result, but played a flat first half and saw a questionable penalty call and red card effectively end their chances of coming away from Red Bull Arena with a result.

Playing without the suspended Rafa Marquez, the Red Bulls shut down the dangerous Portland attack, and road goals from Dane Richards and Luke Rodgers to a 2-0 victory at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.

The Red Bulls dominated play in the first half and broke through in the 21st minute when Richards raced in from the left wing and beat Troy Perkins to his far post from a tight angle to make the score 1-0.

The Red Bulls couldn't do more with its dominant first half though, and nearly gave up an equalizer early in the second half when Khalif Alhassan and Kenny Cooper hit consecutive shots off the woodwork.

The game turned dramatically on a controversial call in the 64th minute, when a deflected shot hit Alhassan on the Timbers goal line, Referee Alex Prus ruled the play a handball and issued Alhassan a red card. Replays showed the shot hit Alhassan in the chest, not the arm, though replays also showed a handball by Timbers forward Kenny Cooper just before the Alhassan contact.

Rodgers converted the penalty kick to make the score 2-0. Portland never really mounted much of a challenge after that.

The night was a good one for the Red Bulls defense, which played very well without Marquez, who was suspended after calling out teammates for not being good enough. The shutout was the second in three matches and fourth since July for the New York defense when playing without Marquez.

Richards was the star of the show for New York, torching the Portland flanks all night. Portland struggled to cope with Richards as Eric Alexander had a hard time dealing with his defensive responsibilities. Timbers head coach John Spencer replaced Alexander with Zizzo at halftime and the change helped Portland enjoy a good start to the second half, before the penalty and red card.

The victory helped the Red Bulls jump past the Timbers in the MLS playoff standings, two points ahead of Portland for the 10th and final playoff berth.

The Red Bulls return to action on Saturday with a trip to Canada to take on Toronto FC. Portland returns to action on Oct. 2 with a visit to the Vancouver Whitecaps.

What did you think of the match? Impressed with the Red Bulls? Disappointed with the red card? Think the Timbers can rebound and still make the playoffs?

Share your thoughts below.


  1. replays clearly show alhassan’s arm being pushed back after being struck by the ball. not sure why you would throw your arm backward after being hit in the chest.

  2. Tim Ream felt Rafa’s frustration and actually played decently. Red Bulls can still go all the way if their defense improves. I can only imagine how dangerous they could be with De Ro still around in the middle. What a big mistake it was to let him go for Mccarty.

    McCarty sucks

  3. Fair enough, SBI & ElMetrofan. I just find Dax’s passing to be weak at times, not enough zip. Turns it over a lot too. I’m more comfortable having Teemu on the ball than Dax. And finding a way to move Rafa back to defensive midfield might solve a lot of issues.

  4. It was called on Alhassan (#11) due to his reaction as he spun away and the RBNY players all simultaneously lobbying for the handball. Replays clearly show it hitting his chest and never touching his arm. Prus (the ref) in his match report didn’t see it either, it was actually called by the linesman who couldn’t possibly have seen it either (Because 1. It never hit Alhassan’s arm or hand, and 2. he was on the side of the field opposite Alhassan and essentially directly in line with him so couldn’t even see his right arm from that angle). Also, if Alhassan hadn’t been there, it looks like it would have gone off the post if not wide from the slow motion replays, thus not a red card.

    Still don’t see where you guys see Cooper touching the ball on that play.

    Henry’s shot deflected off Danso’s arm (#98) while in a natural soccer playing position. Short of having his arms cut off at the shoulder that was inadvertent and unavoidable ball to hand contact, therefore not a handball.

    Painful as it was, RB played a better overall game than the Timbers and while I would have preferred the call be right and the Timbers be allowed to play the rest of the game with 11 guys and only down 1 goal to attempt to steal points, it wasn’t to be.

    Look for MLS to rescind the red against Alhassan next week.

  5. Dax doesn’t suck. He’s had some good games. Sure, he was expensive and cost more than he really is, but is starting to integrate well.

    I do agree that next season we need to find a true rock at the back and a maestro in the midfield.

  6. The red bulls are going to have to have another busy offseason. If i were them, id try and get Rost to bite for a non DP deal. he says he loves the team and playing for non DP money could be plausible. with that extra Dp slot, id go for an attacking minded midfielder with some creativity such as Deco who is on his last year of his contract. If i were have to fix this marquez situation. Either he fixes his attitude and puts in performances that are expected of a guy who gets DP money or were forced to perhaps sell him if there is any buyers out there. And then there is the coaching you keep backe? or do you not keep Backe? How much of the season is to blame on backe and soler? Do you fire the duo that brought a better than average season last year, and then an extraordinary subpar season this year which was met by a dismal cup performance, and questionable trades, and the shocking release of richie williams which in my opinion is one of the key reasons for this season being so atrocious. What do you do? Red bulls roster and coaches change like theres no tomorrow almost every season, and that has been said to be one of the key reasons for them never attaining success. However, how can one attain success when the real problem is the ones making all the decisions? First off, red bulls needs to find someone like richie williams for an assistant. Next, they need figure out why or why not Backe should stay. After, they need to make minor but not wholesale changes to the roster. If Marquez and Nielson are problems in the locker room, find a way to get rid of them and replace them with quality players. After getting a solid squad, they need to make sure they are not filled with thoughts of being superior to other teams in the league. After that, whoever the coach is has to teach them how to play organized and not only to keep possession but to use it in a way that will bring about goal scoring opportunities. After doing that, they need to keep our prospects heads in check such as Ream and Agudelo and make sure they play smart and keep growing. And lastly, the core focus, should be winning first and marketing second because if you win supporters will come. If, whoever is in charge next season, does this there would be a higher probability of achieving greater success next season.

  7. I watched it on MLS Matchday Live. I stand corrected. I thought the handball was called on #98, didn’t realize it was #11 on the goalline. Cooper’s didn’t get called because it was inadvertent. Watching again though I can see why it was called on #11

  8. two wins in three games, no goals allowed, no rafa marquez. hmmmmmmmm.

    i think it’s really funny listening to Shep try and figure out where rafa should play. last night: midfield in a free role. last fall: central defense as he’s too slow to recover.

    i said then what i said a couple weeks ago and what i say now: benchwarmer.

  9. The call was not on number 10 [who? think you meant 98], but on number 11. And while it did appear to hit him in the side of the stomach, he lifts his arm at the very moment of contact and twists his body which gives the impression of a handball. And it is not clear that it didn’t deflect off his arm as well. That said, even if it did not, Cooper earlier appeared to touch it with his arm.

    check the :30- :36 marks of this clip

    Not pictured is a good clip of the cooper handball at :12

  10. Im much happier to see a clean sheet then anything, if it wasn’t for such a lackadaisical defense we would not be worrying about playoff contention. Red bulls has one of the better offenses in the league when healthy…but that defense has been kickin our butts. If I were Backe, and idk how many people would agree with me, but if you are winning without Marquez, and no offense to him, but i would leave him off.

  11. Marquez, who was suspended after calling out teammates for not being good enough.

    Wrong. He was suspended for calling out teammates for not being as good as he is. Big difference!

    If he had said what you attributed to him (that his teammates “aren’t good enough”), then he wouldn’t have been suspended, because it is true.

    (SBI-Actually, he said both.)

  12. Yeah, Marquez isn’t good for us at defense. I don’t know how many times has his play been questionble. The only thing is, I don’t want to see two d-mid. Where does Teemu fit?

  13. “Controversial call” Great. Way to stoke the Timbers fans, SBI. That was a clear hand ball in the box preventing a goal. Red card was the correct, “uncontroversial” call. PK justified.

    BTW, if RBs do bring Rafa back, why not restore him to his defensive midfield roll from last season? Back line seemed fine without him.

    (SBI-The replays at Red Bull Arena showed the ball hitting him on the side of the body, which is why I called it controversial. I still think New York wins that game, but you can’t ignore the fact that such a big call looked questionable. As for Marquez, a defensive midfield role might work, it’s up to him to have the right attitude though and show some humility upon his return.)

  14. I thought it got his hand. Tough for Al Hassan though. He was playing well. That made me think of Sagna for Arsenal. When he’s in the box, he puts his hangs behind his back and grabs his wrist. No chance for the ref to make a bad call or a ball to accidentally bounce off a hand.

  15. Does anyone think that playing Rafa is out of Backe’s hands? I mean he’s making 5 million a year. It’s the same concept for the fact that AJ Burnett is still starting for the Yanks. Money talks. This season is on Soler, not Backe. Think about it. The Red Bulls gave up Tchani, Borman, DeResario AND a first round pick for Dax McCarty. That’s horrible.

  16. If were going to ride the wave without Rafa. I definitely think we need Roy Miller healthy by the next match. Keel makes panic every time the opponent is in our half.
    Put Petke back on the pitch.

  17. He meant “rode” goals. I was confused at first too. I love SBI, but this site could seriously use an editor to review posts for this stuff before they go up. The frequency of spelling errors, grammatical errors, and typos can come off as unprofessional.

  18. “…and ROAD GOALS from Dane Richards and Luke Rodgers to a 2-0 victory AT RBA on Saturday night.”

    This confused me. Is there another meaning for “road” in this context that doesn’t mean “away” that I’m not aware of?

  19. How clear is inconclusive?

    The ref let the game start out with Timbers getting bullied on the ball. Whistle for both sides was very late in the game.

  20. I don’t see what’s controversial about the call. It was clear that the ball hit his arm and would have gone in the goal if it didn’t. Therefore clear red card and penalty. There’s no room for judgement. There is no intent involved if the contact prevents a goal. Portland was lucky that wasn’t their second red. Jewsbury went studs up on Lindpere in a legbreaker, clear straight red. Awful, awful, ridiculous decision by the ref to only give a yellow.

    Very composed effort by NYRB, eliminating their usual boneheaded defensive miscues and showing actual effort and intensity. Richards was his usual unstoppable self (and by usual, i mean once every 15 games).

    This is a very good team as long as it keeps it simple defensively and plays with consistent focus and intensity. The problem is that they don’t usually do this (except for Lindpere and Rodgers).

  21. I cannot see how Backe can put Rafa back in the starting lineup, as he did not play in the last two wins. I realize that common sense has little to do with Backe’s decisions, but tonight’s lineup was efficient, hungry, and full of positive energy without Rafa. RB had a lot to make up for from Wednesday’s crapfest, and they responded with a professional attitude. I’m glad that tonight’s big crowd saw a great win. Also, props to the Portland fans who attended the game.


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