After struggling to generate scoring chances in their first game without two key players, the New York Red Bulls are focused on getting out to a fast start to avoid their longest losing streak in four years.
The Portland Timbers may be tied for the fewest wins in MLS, but they've started showing signs of improvement.
As the star-laden Red Bulls look to avert a rare three-game slide, the visiting Timbers try to extend their unbeaten streak to five Saturday in the only league meeting between the clubs this season.
With midfielder Tim Cahill joining Australia's national team and fullback Roy Miller training with Costa Rica's squad ahead of the World Cup this summer, New York (3-4-5) finished with a season-low one shot on goal in a 2-0 loss at Toronto last Saturday.
The Red Bulls, who rank third in the Eastern Conference with 18 goals and 53 shots on net, were shut out for the first time since a 1-0 loss at D.C. United on April 12. They also conceded their fifth goal in the opening quarter-hour of matches.
"Urgency, taking better care of the ball, putting ourselves in better situations, yadda yadda," coach Mike Petke told the league's official website. "It's the same thing for the last couple of weeks."
Coming off a three-goal effort in a 5-4 home loss to Chicago on May 10, Bradley Wright-Phillips failed to put a shot on goal for the first time in seven contests. The forward, who leads MLS with nine goals, has scored six times in his last two home games.
Thierry Henry, the team's second-leading scorer with three goals, hasn't found the back of the net in his last four games. He also has just one goal in four career meetings with the Timbers (1-3-7).
The Red Bulls haven't dropped three in a row - or two straight at home - since a four-game skid in May 2010 and have never lost to Portland since it joined the league in 2011.
New York is 2-0-2 in the four all-time matchups, outscoring the Timbers 5-2 in two home wins. Portland has gone 0-4-1 in its last five road games, including last postseason.
Since totaling nine goals in its first eight matches, Portland has scored seven in its last three. First-year forward Gaston Fernandez has three goals in his last four, while Maximiliano Urruti has scored twice in his previous three.
Fernandez, who leads the team with seven goals, scored the game-tying tally in the 85th minute last Saturday as the Timbers earned a 3-all draw with visiting Columbus. It was the Argentine forward's fourth tying goal of the season.
"It's not where we want to be, but I guarantee there isn't a team in the league that wants to face us," coach Caleb Porter said.
Porter said midfielder Diego Chara should be available after missing last week's match because of a broken hand.
Defender Alvas Powell, however, will begin serving a two-game suspension for a harsh tackle against the Crew. He had been playing in place of Michael Harrington, who is still working his way back from an ankle sprain.
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- New York Red Bulls
- Portland Timbers