A Dane Richards first half strike and a Luke Rodgers penalty kick conversion lifted the New York Red Bulls to a vital 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers in front of a sell out crowd of 25,008 at Red Bull Arena. The Red Bulls defense held firm, earning its second shutout in three games, as New York improved to 39 points off an 8-7-15 record. The victory helped the Red Bulls leap over the Timbers (10-13-7, 37 pts.) into the final wild card spot and move just three points behind the Eastern Conference leader, the Houston Dynamo, as New York has a game in hand.
In the 11th minute, the Red Bulls earned a good opportunity when the Timbers turned the ball over in their own half. However, Rodgers could not put his shot on target after Thierry Henry fed it to him. Later, defender Carlos Mendes had enough space to fire right at goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
The Red Bulls took the lead in the 21st minute off a great individual play from Richards. Richards was able to gather the ball on the left wing and drove towards the endline. The Jamaican got by Portland’s Diego Chara and poked an attempt from a sharp angle past Perkins and into the far side netting.
Henry would have doubled the hosts’ lead 10 minutes later if it weren’t for a diving save by Perkins, as the ‘keeper swatted out a header by the Frenchman, who re-directed a Teemu Tainio free kick. Three minutes before the break, Joel Lindpere ripped a 20-yard shot that was deflected over the crossbar by Timbers defender Futty Danso.
New York searched to improve its advantage in the second half. Defender Jan Gunnar Solli was able to weave his way into the penalty box, but his left footed roller did not trouble Perkins. Moments later, Lindpere ran towards goal and hit an attempt that skipped just past the right post.
Portland had its best opportunity to tie the game in the 57th minute. Darlington Nagbe made a diagonal run in New York’s defensive third and slid it to Kalif Alhassan, whose one-time shot beat goalkeeper Frank Rost and slammed off the crossbar. Timbers forward Kenny Cooper volleyed the rebound, which bounced off the pitch and again hit the woodwork.
Perkins again came up big for the visitors in the 60th minute. Richards, this time on the right wing, got by two Timbers defenders before crossing it to Henry. Henry’s right-footed blast on goal was parried by Perkins.
The Red Bulls would get the cushion they were searching for and go a man up four minutes later. Off a corner kick, Henry was able to volley it towards the inside of the left post. The shot was adjudged to have knocked off the arm of Alhassan and referee Alex Prus pointed to the penalty spot, while giving the Timbers midfielder a red card in the process for denying a goal scoring opportunity. Rodgers stepped up and ripped it into the netting for his eighth goal of the year.