MLS Preview from The Sports Network (ET)

 

The Sports Network

Portland (1-3-7) at New York (3-4-5), 7 p.m.

Harrison, NJ (SportsNetwork.com) - Two struggling powerhouses will square off at Red Bull Arena on Saturday as Red Bull New York hosts the Portland Timbers.

Both sides enjoyed impressive seasons last term as New York claimed the Supporters' Shield with 59 points and Portland finished atop the Western Conference on 57 points.

But the new campaign has seen both clubs struggle out of the gate. New York has dropped two straight matches while Portland has claimed just one win from its first 11 games of the season.

After an entertaining 5-4 home loss to the Chicago Fire, the Red Bulls were unable to bounce back at Toronto FC as goals from Jermain Defoe and Luke Moore handed the Canadian club a 2-0 win.

Bradley Wright-Phillips came into the match with eight goals from his previous four games. The Englishman should have added another goal to his league- leading total of nine, but he skied a second-half sitter over the crossbar from close range.

"It is part of the game," Thierry Henry said of the miss. "Bradley has scored many times since the beginning of the season and if he scored it could have changed the game but at the end of the day, Toronto FC won 2-0. No one on this team can blame Bradley for anything. He has been tremendous for us all season and I am sure he will score a lot more as the season goes on."

Portland, meanwhile, is unbeaten in its last four outings, but its one win on the season sees the club anchor the Western Conference table on 10 points.

The Timbers were trailing the Columbus Crew with five minutes to play in their last outing until Gaston Fernandez struck with late equalizer to see the two sides split the points in a 3-3 draw.

While the Timbers desperately need to start turning draws into wins, head coach Caleb Porter was pleased with the result given that the Timbers played much of the match with only 10 men following the first-half red card to Alvas Powell.

"I'm proud of my team," Porter said. "Obviously, we didn't get three points, but I'm proud of our effort. Down a man, down a goal, to fight back and show what they showed, outplay a team down a man, down a goal, I think is a huge positive and that's what I told them, that I was proud of their effort today."

What should ultimately carry Portland through its current rough patch is perseverance, which Steve Zakuani believes his side showed in its ability to stage so many late comebacks this term.

"We don't give in," Zakuani said. "We fought for each other today. Everybody did their duty. One of our best attacking players playing left back at one point, doing defensive work because that's what it means to us, trying to get the win. Unfortunately, right now we're not picking up wins, but we're also not losing games.

"Shortly here, I think around the corner, we're going to slowly start turning those ones into three points. When you're playing like that and work as hard as we're working, your luck starts to change. We have a never-say-die attitude, and at 2-2 they score again ... most teams at that point just give up, but we still came back and found a third goal."

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