Red Bulls' MLS opener vs. Timbers next on their busy schedule
The 2018 Major League Soccer opener for Luis Robles feels a little strange.
After all, the New York Red Bulls already have three competitive games under their belt in the CONCACAF Champions League, including a historic win in Mexico on Tuesday, before facing the Portland Timbers on Saturday night at Red Bull Arena.
But considering the Red Bulls' success in the international competition, including a 2-0 win in the first leg of the quarterfinals against Tijuana from Liga MX, strange is good, though the focus is squarely on the Timbers.
"We're not looking past Portland," said Robles, the Red Bulls goalkeeper who made 13 saves in the first-ever knockout round win by an MLS team in Mexico. "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."
While the attention is on the Timbers, who opened the season with a 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Sunday, there will no doubt about the roster rotation for New York with the second leg of the CCL slated for Tuesday at Red Bull Arena.
With the short turnaround, it's unlikely the Red Bulls will utilize anyone who started against Tijuana, with the exception of Robles and midfielder Sean Davis, who is suspended for the second leg because of yellow card accumulation.
Midfielder Marc Rzatkowski, who arrived on loan from Red Bull Salzburg, will most likely be sidelined Saturday with a hamstring injury.
"We think it's pretty mild. He'll be day to day," Red Bulls coach Jesse Marsch said. "I think he's probable to questionable for Saturday, but then I think Tuesday becomes a real possibility. He's doing much better than we thought."
The match is also a homecoming for first-year Portland coach Giovanni Savarese, who played for the New York organization when it was the MetroStars. He has been a big part of the New York area soccer scene, previously coaching at the New York Cosmos in the North American Soccer League.
"I think he's done a very good job there and he's kind of taken a lot of the way they played there and put it in place in Portland," Marsch said. "He likes to spread the field, he likes to unbalance teams, he likes his teams to be good passing teams, and Portland is different in that way in the beginning of the year here."
Savarese said he expects a large number of family and friends at Red Bull Arena, but his focus is squarely on the match itself.
"It's definitely good to go back to New York," Savarese said. "Seeing family, seeing friends, but the most important thing is to be able to go there and play to try to bring points back. That's the most important part. That's the only thing in my mind right now."
One of the big question marks for the Timbers is the health of Diego Chara. The midfielder missed the season opener with a right foot injury.
"We'll see, we'll make that analysis this week," Savarese said. "We'll see if this is the right moment to come in and then we'll make that decision. But he's very close."
Updated March 8, 2018