HARRISON, N.J. (AP)—The New York Red Bulls were able to keep their home undefeated record intact, getting a rare win after trailing by two goals.
It marked the first time since Sept. 11, 2004, the franchise had recovered after giving up the first two goals to win. The then-MetroStars came back to defeat New England, also 3-2. New York’s latest win was only the sixth time in the franchise’s history that they came back from being down two goals.
“When you go down two, you usually lose the game,” Red Bulls head coach Hans Backe said. “It’s normally too much to recover from.”
Pearce, an All-Star defender, scored the winner off a fine feed from Jan Gunnar Solli, getting his second goal of the season. Pearce rose high above a pack of players to head the ball home.
“It was a good timing play by Heath,” said Solli, who had two assists. “I just lifted it up and there he was.”
The play started with a corner kick that went to Cooper at the far right post. He kept possession and passed to Solli, who made the fine cross in front to the alert Pearce.
New York won its second straight after two losses and moved two points behind Eastern Conference-leading Sporting Kansas City.
After Dike and Nagbe each scored to give the Timbers a 2-0 lead, the Red Bulls stormed back to score two goals in the final two minutes of the first half.
Cooper, who entered the game as a substitute midway through the first half, scored on a header, his third consecutive goal on a header and 14th of the season. Then Cahill, the Australian superstar who signed with the Red Bulls earlier this month, scored his first goal off a deflection in front.
The Timbers, currently last in the MLS Western Conference, shocked the Red Bulls by scoring first in the eighth minute.
Soon after the Red Bulls missed a good scoring chance off a corner kick, the Timbers raced down the field to convert on their first scoring opportunity. Sal Zizzo outraced two Red Bull defenders to the ball, then made a perfect cross to Dike, who eluded Red Bulls defender Markus Holgersson to put a shot past Red Bulls goalie Bill Gaudette for a 1-0 lead. It was Dike’s first goal of the season.
Thierry Henry had a chance to tie the score, after he was pulled down just outside the penalty area. But his direct free kick in the 25th minute sailed over the crossbar.
Portland pushed the lead to 2-0 in the 32nd minute, when they converted on a fine offensive set. Franck Songo’o kept the ball through three Red Bull defenders, then pushed it to the left for Zizzo. Zizzo made a fine play drawing the defense to him, then passed it ahead to Nagbe, who beat Pearce to the ball and knocked it past Gaudette for his fifth goal of the year.
The damage could have been far worse if Gaudette didn’t make a diving save on Dike’s shot in the 40th minute. From that point, the Red Bulls played inspired soccer, tying the game before halftime.
On Cahill’s goal, Portland players were insistent that referee Jasen Anno blew his whistle for a hand ball in the box on the deflection, but the play stood.
“That really changed the game,” Dike said. “It hurt us. The ref clearly blew the whistle and three or four of our players just stopped. You can’t take advantage like that after the whistle was blown. Things just started to slip away from that point.”
“After the way we played in the first 45 minutes, getting two goals was a gift,” Backe said. “We were in trouble.”
Gaudette was huge in the second half, making three spectacular saves. In the 61st minute, Gaudette made a diving save of a hard shot from Nagbe. In the 65th minute, he came out of the goal to make a sliding stop on a fierce shot from Zizzo and in the 69th minute, he stopped a breakaway attempt by Diego Chara. Although he surrendered two early goals, it was Gaudette’s best game as a member of the Red Bulls.
“They were just saves,” Gaudette said. “I’m just doing my job. It wasn’t our best performance. We weren’t top notch. We all know we didn’t play our best. I just happened to be in the right spot at the right time. The only positive we have from tonight is that we got three points, but we can’t be happy with our performance.”