The New York Red Bulls finally picked up a victory in their last match after playing to four consecutive draws. They seem to be visiting the Portland Timbers at the right time to pick up three more points.
The Red Bulls play the first of four straight road games Sunday night against the Timbers, who will be without suspended coach John Spencer as they try to avoid a fourth consecutive loss.
New York (5-2-7) thought it was on its way to winning for the first time in four games June 4 against Columbus, but the Crew scored in stoppage time to salvage a 1-1 draw.
The Red Bulls finally came away with three points June 10 against New England. New York got an early own goal and Thierry Henry scored his seventh of the season shortly after halftime, the difference-maker in a 2-1 victory that was a much-needed morale boost for a team missing some key players during the Gold Cup.
"Mentally, we've really been struggling," goalkeeper Greg Sutton said. "With mishaps like last week, we needed these points. It was a big victory morally and standings-wise."
While the Red Bulls continue to jockey with Philadelphia for the top spot in the Eastern Conference, the Timbers (5-6-2) are tumbling toward the bottom of the West.
Portland was keeping itself in playoff position with a brilliant 5-0-0 start at Jeld-Wen Field, but lately its home field hasn't been much of an advantage. Two of the Timbers' three straight defeats have come at home, with a 1-0 loss to Colorado on June 11 leaving them with a particularly bitter taste after the Rapids' Drew Moor scored in stoppage time.
That goal came shortly after Spencer was ejected for arguing with the officials, which earned Portland's fiery coach an automatic one-match suspension and a $2,500 fine.
Spencer won't be on the sidelines Sunday night - assistant Trevor James will take over - but that hasn't stopped him from devising a way to stop the Timbers' slide and two-game goal drought.
"Every team goes through a little bit of a dry spell," Spencer told the official MLS website. "The good thing about it is we're getting into positions. We're giving (the forwards) opportunities. We know that before too long the players will score goals. We know that."
Keeping the Red Bulls off the scoreboard will be easier if Luke Rodgers can't play. The striker had five goals and three assists in his past 10 matches while teaming with Henry, but he left in the second half against the Revolution, bothered by lingering plantar fasciitis.
Coach Hans Backe expects Rodgers to play - and that's enough to scare Spencer.
"Rodgers is a prime example of a player that when you put him alongside better players ... he raises the level," Spencer said of the Englishman's pairing with Henry.
Timbers central defender Mamadou Danso is expected to miss at least two weeks after suffering a left shoulder injury against Colorado.