When you are undefeated at home, competing for first place in your division and are coming off of a revenge minded victory against a conference competitor, you just might overlook an opponent as poor as the Portland Timbers.
Portland picked up a draw against Toronto FC at BMO last week to extend their winless record on the road to 0-8-2. That road record only magnifies when you take their first MLS season into account; they have only picked up two wins in 27 matches since arriving in the American top flight. Their road goal differential is an atrocious -18, and overall they have scored a meager 22 goals through 21 matches.
They currently sit last in the Western Conference with an unsightly 5-12-6 record.
All in all, both teams couldn’t be further apart. And when you have these kinds of circumstances surrounding a match, you can’t help but wonder if it has the makings of a trap game.
Not Red Bulls Coach Hans Backe.
“I would say it doesn’t matter who you play in this league – that’s what it’s all about,” he said. “Every game is even, you just have to have the same attitude and spirit that we did against Houston at home. That’s what it’s all about, then we can pick up three points. If you just slip a little bit, 10 percent, you will lose.”
Last weeks encouraging defeat of Houston followed days of intense training. This week has been no different. “We can see an edge now. With three, four guys coming back picking up the fight, it’s so much more competitive every session, so that helps,” Backe observed.
“We worked very hard on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and (Friday), it was an intense session, 11 v 11, and both sides really pushing each other for position in the starting lineup,” Red Bulls midfielder Tim Cahill noted. “It’s healthy for the team, good for the manager and good for the players. Even in training, there are some crunching tackles, and that’s what I like to see. Competition for places and also a competitiveness that’s going to rub off on the football pitch on the weekend.
“I watched the last game they played on the weekend,” he continued. “(Portland is a) Decent team with some good players. I think for us, we’ve had a very hard week tactically and physically. A lot of the boys are coming back from injury and working on trying to stabilize what we did against Houston at home. We’re sitting in a good position in the table, but the same discipline and consistency from the last game has to be brought into Portland, and really focus on our positives and cut out the errors. I think for us if we do that we’re a very decent team.”
“I said the other day, forget about points,” Red Bulls Captain Thierry Henry said. “The points will eventually come if we play with the attitude that we had the other day. I think saying that, I still think that we gave Houston too much room at times and they could have scored, and should have scored. I think that’s one of the things we need to do better. It’s kind of weird to say that because it seems like we’re not doing well from what I’m saying, but we’re actually doing well. What I was trying to put across the other day was that when we lose away from home, we don’t have any opportunity to come back into the game. When we win games at home, somehow the team that we play against is always in the game. So we have to try to make sure that we can have, for once, an easy game.
“We know it won’t be an easy one again, but we can make it easy. We’ll see how it’s going to be, but if the attitude stays the same as it was the other day, then it’s going to be a good game. Other than that, I’ve been in this league a little while, and if the attitude doesn’t match the attitude of the other team, then you’re in trouble.”