The New York Red Bulls erased a two-goal deficit for a come-from-behind 3-2 victory over the Portland Timbers on Sunday night at Red Bull Arena. Heath Pearce’s tally off a header in the 83rd minute proved to be the game-winner for New York, which also got goals from leading scorer Kenny Cooper and midfielder Tim Cahill.
Bright Dike and Darlington Nagbe scored to stake Portland to an early lead, but the second place Red Bulls were able to notch their fourth comeback win of the season and improved to 44 points (13-7-5), just two points shy of leader Sporting Kansas City. New York also remained unbeaten at Red Bull Arena this year, extending its home record to 9-0-3.
It took just eight minutes for the game to find its first goal, with the visitors breaking the deadlock. Sal Zizzo led Portland (5-13-6, 21 pts.) on the counterattack down the right flank and brought the ball into the penalty area. Zizzo squared the ball across to Dike, who beat goalkeeper Bill Gaudette with a first time right-footed shot.
The Timbers doubled their advantage on Nagbe’s fifth goal of the season as Portland once again hit New York on a counter. Portland went the other way after Roy Miller lost possession, with Franck Songo’o leading the charge on the left side. Songo’o cut across the top of the box and fed the ball to Zizzo, who slid a pass behind the New York defense to Nagbe. From the right side, Nagbe hit the ball across the goalmouth, sneaking it inside the far post.
Needing an injection of offense, coach Hans Backe went to his bench early and brought on Cooper in the 36th minute. Just seven minutes after he took the pitch, Cooper notched his team-leading 14th goal of the season to bring New York back to within one. Markus Holgersson dribbled forward and picked out Dax McCarty near the 18-yard line and McCarty turned to his right and sent a short through ball into the path of Jan Gunnar Solli. Solli one-timed a right footed cross into the center of the area, and Cooper rose and nodded the ball inside the far left post.
Two minutes later, the Red Bulls were back on level terms when Cahill found the back of the net for the first time since coming to MLS. After receiving a pass from Sebastien Le Toux and with his back to the net, the Australian tapped the ball to McCarty, who fired it on goal. The ball was blocked by a Portland defender in the box and ricocheted back out to Cahill, who struck the ball in from outside the box with his left foot.
In the 52nd minute, New York had back-to-back chances but both were thwarted by Timbers goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts. From the left flank, Cahill directed a looping ball into the box that met the head of Thierry Henry, but Ricketts did well to keep it out. The rebound fell to Le Toux and he was stopped at point-blank range by Ricketts. Nine minutes later, it was Gaudette’s turn, as the New York keeper parried away a chance from Nagbe that was taken from the top of the box. In the 69th minute, Gaudette came up with another big save, stopping Diego Chara on a breakaway chance.
New York took the lead for good with seven minutes to go. Thierry Henry took a corner kick from the left flag, and the ball sailed all the way to Cooper at the far edge of the box. Cooper laid the ball off to Solli, who swung a cross back into the middle of the area. Pearce rose above his defender and headed the ball downwards and into the net for his second goal of the season.