The New York Red Bulls still have a slight margin of error as they seek to move closer to clinching a playoff berth in the Eastern Conference. The Portland Timbers have no such luxury in the West heading into Wednesday's crucial interconference matchup at Providence Park.
The Red Bulls (12-13-5) are sixth in the Eastern Conference with four matches remaining, four better than Montreal and Chicago, who are eighth and ninth and each have three games remaining. New York, though, is looking to avoid a season-high fourth consecutive loss and salvage something from this trip to the Pacific Northwest after absorbing a 4-2 loss at Seattle on Saturday.
Goals by Aaron Long and Kaku on either side of halftime pulled the Red Bulls level with 23 minutes remaining, but an own goal by Sean Davis on a shot by Victor Rodriguez that deflected off his leg and by Luis Robles in the 83rd minute consigned New York to its fourth loss in six matches (1-4-1).
"We clawed back into the game, and yeah, it's an unfortunate play on my part," Davis said about the own goal. "But we gotta bounce back and turn the page quickly in a big game on Wednesday but the effort from the guys to get back in the game was fantastic and I'm disappointed in that one play.
New York has struggled defensively on the road of late, shipping 24 goals in the last nine contests while taking only seven points (2-6-1) in that span. The Red Bulls conceded six goals in the first six matches while claiming eight points (2-2-2) in those contests.
Portland (13-12-4) enter this match in the seventh and final playoff spot in the West on 43 points, ahead of FC Dallas on the wins tiebreaker but also within reach of hosting a first-round playoff game. The Timbers are three points behind fourth-place Real Salt Lake and six back of Seattle while holding at least one match in hand on everyone in the conference.
Currently in the eighth match of a 10-game run at home necessitated by early season renovation work at Providence Park, the Timbers were denied a third straight victory Sunday with a 1-0 defeat to D.C. United. An own goal by Timbers defender Bill Tuiloma in the 25th minute separated the sides as Portland lacked an incisive edge in the final third - Giovanni Savarese's team outshot D.C. 23-7 but had the same number of shots on target (four).
"We played a very good team and we outplayed them, but the game is about goals, not how many crosses, not how much possession, not on the good things that you do," Savarese said. "There's a lot to build from, but we need to be better and keep on working on the final third, because even though we created a lot of situations we were not as dangerous as we could have been inside the box."
Savarese hopes to have his two best attacking options - Designated Players Brian Fernandez and Sebastian Blanco - available for this contest. Fernandez, who has a team-leading 11 goals, was out due to an illness while Blanco, whose nine assists are second on the Timbers, was sidelined by a calf strain.
The Red Bulls were 4-0 winners in last year's matchup as Carlos Rivas' brace highlighted a three-goal outburst after the 77th minute that put the match out of reach. Portland recorded its lone home win in four meetings (1-2-1) in 2017 with Diego Valeri scoring a goal and setting up another in a 2-0 victory.