PORTLAND, Ore. (AP)Kyle Duncan scored his first MLS goal in the opening minutes and Daniel Royer added a penalty kick in stoppage time to give the New York Red Bulls a 2-0 victory over the Portland Timbers on Wednesday night.
The Red Bulls (13-13-5), jockeying for home-field advantage in the playoffs with three games remaining, snapped a three-game losing streak.
”I think there was a sense of urgency, and we felt we had that last game, too, and you can throw the one in before that. Look, it’s always tricky when you lose, because it puts you to the test,” Red Bulls coach Chris Armas said. ”But we’ve talked a lot around here about being big in tough moments, and standing tall, keeping your head up and sticking together.”
It was the second straight loss for the Timbers (13-13-4) and fifth at home this season, matching the team’s mark for most home losses set in 2011, their first season in Major League Soccer.
Portland has gone 2-4 in its last six games as it tries to secure a spot in the postseason with four games left. Last year, the Timbers advanced to the MLS Cup final.
”The only way to go through it is to stay calm, to keep on working, and to make sure that these things don’t get to you, because if you start worrying too much in regards to missing opportunities and not being able to score, then you lose the belief,” Timbers coach Giovanni Savarese said. ”And what you have to always have is the belief that you can achieve things and that’s what we need right now: to make sure we keep believing in ourselves.”
The Timbers had just 16 players available on Sunday when they fell 1-0 to D.C. United. Portland’s top scorer, Brian Fernandez, was back in the starting lineup against the Red Bulls after missing the previous game with a stomach illness.
Zarek Valentin, who missed the United game because of the birth of his first child, also started. Sebastian Blanco, who had a calf injury, was available on the bench.
Royer, Bradley Wright Phillips and Kaku did not start against the Timbers. Wright-Phillips and Royer came in as substitutes in the second half.
”It was a huge win for us, but more importantly, I thought it was a really strong performance, especially with our backs against the wall,” Red Bulls midfielder Sean Davis said. ”I think we showed our best stuff, so we should be proud of that.”
Duncan scored for the Red Bulls in the third minute on a cross from Marc Rzatkowski. They nearly went up by another goal in the sixth minute when Rzatkowski’s rebound was cleared by Bill Tuiloma.
Duncan, a defender, is in his second season in the league. Assigned recently to the team’s USL team, he was making his first appearance with the Red Bulls since July.
The Red Bulls were awarded the penalty in stoppage time after Jorge Moreira took down Rzatkowski in the box.
Portland’s best chance came in the 19th minute when Diego Chara got a clear look at the goal but his shot caromed off the crossbar. Jeremy Ebobisse had another chance in the 82nd minute but his shot went just inches wide.
”We play good games. If you think about the games that we have lost points here at home, most of them we have played better than the rival. Sometimes the result doesn’t reflect the way of the game,” Timbers captain Diego Valeri said. ”But at the end, soccer is all about efficiency, it’s all about moments where you can change the game, and this is a moment where we have to be very smart and focused on it.”
The Red Bulls were coming off a 4-2 loss at Seattle on Sunday. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles played at the University of Portland, where the team practiced between the match against the Sounders and Wednesday night’s game.
Robles said it felt like one of the biggest wins of the season.
”It feels like it, especially coming off of three losses. When we played Seattle on the weekend, we thought the game was there for us, and we got unlikely with the own goal. But this is a remarkable group, there’s a lot of resiliency in it.”
The Timbers were hurt when Cristhian Paredes had to be stretched off in the 73rd minutes. He was replaced by Blanco.
The Red Bulls host the Philadelphia Union on Sunday while the Timbers host Minnesota.
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