PORTLAND, Ore. – The Portland Timbers are coming off a disappointing 1-0 loss to D.C. United, but they don’t have much time to think about it. On Wednesday, they’ll face off against another Eastern Conference side, the New York Red Bulls, for the first time this season (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US; DAZN in Canada).
The match Wednesday will be the second of five games to be played over a 15-day period for Portland. It’s a difficult stretch, but one that won’t require too much travel. The only game away from Providence Park during that period comes against Sporting Kansas City on Sept. 29.
“Most of the games are at home and we are playing well at home,” Portland midfielder Diego Valeri said. “So, we have to keep going in that way and the points will come.”
They’ve played well at home, but not as well as years past. They’ve lost four games at home this season, the most since 2012. Valeri doesn’t see it as a looming problem, however.
“Today we played a good game so we play like that we will probably win more games than lose games, so it doesn’t matter,” Valeri said, reflecting on the performance against D.C. United in spite of the result on the day.
A bigger cause of concern for them is who’s going to be on the pitch for them against the Red Bulls. The Timbers have been dealing with injuries for a couple weeks now, and only had 16 available for Sunday’s match.
The key players missing recently from the Timbers lineup have been striker Brian Fernandez and midfielder Sebastian Blanco. Fernandez, the leading scorer on the team with 11 goals in 16 games played, has been battling a stomach bug while Blanco has been nursing a hamstring injury.
“Hopefully we get Seba back, Brian and others that are going to help as well,” Portland head coach Giovanni Savarese said.
Missing two of the team's best attacking weapons has unsurprisingly slowed down the Timbers' offense.
“They’re really important guys,” Timbers defender Jorge Villafana said. “They’re dangerous on top and we need everyone. If they’re healthy it’ll be great, but if they’re not we’ve been playing with the guys that have come in, stepped in and done the job. Obviously, you want everyone to be healthy but if not, we have to play with what we have.”
Regardless of who is available, Portland are in must-win mode. They’re seventh in the West currently, level on points with FC Dallas who are below the playoff line. The Timbers are one point behind the San Jose Earthquakes, two behind the LA Galaxy and three behind Real Salt Lake, who have the last seed that would host a home game in the Audi 2019 MLS Cup Playoffs.
“You have to forget about it and start to focus on the next one,” Villafana said. “It’s a quick turnaround and we still have the opportunity to get those points that we need to climb up the table.”