The New York Red Bulls were among two teams not scheduled when the MLS season kicked off last week.
They had a good reason — they were getting wins in CONCACAF Champions League games.
After winning in Mexico on Tuesday, the Red Bulls open the season Saturday night when they host the Portland Timbers at Red Bull Arena.
The Red Bulls enter their season opener and first MLS game since a 1-0 loss to Toronto in the Eastern Conference semifinals on Nov. 5 coming off a 2-0 win in the first leg of the Champions League quarterfinals on Tuesday. It was the first time an MLS team won in Mexico during a knockout round but nonetheless, the Red Bulls are gearing up for Portland.
“We’re not looking past Portland,” goaltender Luis Robles told reporters at practice this week. “We know that Portland coming into our place is an important game because it’s a league game. All these points are going to prove very valuable at the end of the season.”
Robles made 13 saves Tuesday and will be making his 175th regular-season appearance Saturday. Last season he posted 10 shutouts, though he gave up two in a loss at Portland on Aug. 18.
After playing Portland, the Red Bulls continue with the second leg of the Champions League Tuesday at home, meaning anyone who started against Tijuana is unlikely to play except for Robles and midfielder Sean Davis (suspension).
Portland opened the season with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday in the first game under new coach Giovanni Savarese, who began his MLS playing career with New York when the Red Bulls were known as the MetroStars from 1996 to 1998.
“It feels special to go back to New York to play against the Red Bulls,” Savarese told the team’s website. “It feels a little bit some way like a rivalry, but it also feels like coming back home.”
Savarese’s homecoming will be even more satisfactory is the Timbers can get off to a better start. The Timbers trailed by two goals at halftime and only Sebastian Blanco scored in the 66th minute.
Blanco was the only player in the MLS last week to register three shots on target.
Portland owns a 225-minute shutout streak over the Red Bulls since the last minute of the first half on Sept. 20, 2015.
—Field Level Media