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Portland Timbers Vs. NY Red Bulls Preview, Prediction

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Here we go again.

Season 18 of Major League Soccer kicks off on Saturday, but supporters of the New York Red Bulls and Portland Timbers will have to wait until Sunday evening ET to begin the latest campaign. "Unpredictable" seems to be the top description for New York at the moment. I've seen some analysts suggest that RBNY will struggle to even qualify for postseason play, while one fool even believes that this will be the year that New York finally end their cup drought. Fan-favorite Mike Petke has between now and nine months from today to prove that he's ready to be a head coach at this level.

No pressure, man.

3 thoughts heading into Portland Timbers vs. NY Red Bulls: New look, same problem?

Through all of the overhaul and turnover we've seen, one thing unfortunately remained the same for the Red Bulls during this past preseason. They still surrendered far too many early goals. Most lineup/formation predictions I've seen over the past week or so have Petke going with a back line of Roy Miller, Heath Pearce, Jamison Olave and Kosuke Kimura. That's a pretty solid unit on paper, but talent alone does not make a solid defensive core.

Patience is going to be the name of the game for RBNY supporters in the opening months of the campaign. Until this back line develops chemistry and confidence, goalkeeper Luis Robles is likely going to find himself very busy in the first half-hour of matches. If I'm coaching Portland on Sunday, I'm pushing my squad forward early and often.

3 thoughts heading into Portland Timbers vs. NY Red Bulls: RBNY trinity

The 2012 Red Bulls largely lived through the duo of captain Thierry Henry and Kenny Cooper. Cooper is gone because of budgetary reasons, and Henry will now team up with former Real Salt Lake star Fabian Espindola and veteran Juninho Pernambucano. Much has been made in season previews and fan discussions about the Red Bulls having to replace the 18 goals netted by Cooper last season.

I don't think it's going to be quite the deal others expect it to be.

Cooper was a solid player for New York in 2012, but we shouldn't act as if he was some elite goalscorer burying golazo after golazo. Much of his success came because of his taking advantage of openings created by defenders focusing a bit too much on Henry. The 27-year old Espindola, criticized by some for having "lost" his shooting boots over the past couple of years, will now be there to fill those openings. Espindola has something to prove between now and December, and I wouldn't bet against him unless he seriously struggles in March and April.

Juninho is, in many ways, still Juninho. He isn't the player of old, of course, but that doesn't mean that he can't be one of the top distributors in all of MLS this season. David Beckham never won a regular season MLS MVP award during his LA Galaxy tenure. He didn't have to do so for LA to win back-to-back titles.

3 thoughts heading into Portland Timbers vs. NY Red Bulls: Prediction

One thing seems certain when dealing with two mid-transition teams playing their first meaningful game of the season: There will be plenty of mistakes and some ugly soccer, all of which could make for an entertaining contest. In the end, I don't think either side has a glaring advantage over the other on the first Sunday of March. That's the biggest reason why I am going with a 2-2 scoreline and a New York escape from JELD-WEN.

Zac has been covering New York Red Bulls, Major League Soccer, Tottenham Hotspur, the USMNT and other soccer leagues for Yahoo! Sports since 2010.

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