The New York Red Bulls' undefeated home record this season looked like it was going to come to an end on Sunday night to the Portland Timbers of all teams. A pair of early goals put the Timbers, last in the Western Conference, up 2-0, but the Red Bulls stormed back and preserved their home mark with three goals to win 3-2.
It took just eight minutes for Portland to go in front and it was Bright Dike who did the scoring, opening his MLS account. But while Dike was the goalscorer, Sal Zizzo did much of the work, taking a good pass from Kosuke Kimura and putting the defense on its heels before crossing for Dike to finish rather easily.
In the 32nd minute, Darlington Nagbe doubled the Portland lead. Franck Songo'o started the play with some nifty work down the right before cutting in and drawing in the defense. He fed Zizzo, who once again did the assisting with a good ball into Nagbe to finish and the Timbers were sitting pretty.
At least it looked like the Timbers were sitting pretty, but things fell apart in the 42nd minute. Kenny Cooper got on the end of a cross from Jan Gunnar Solli and headed home to cut Portland's lead in half.
Three minutes later, the referee flat out handed the Red Bulls a goal with some of the most cowardice and awful refereeing possible. Dax McCarty let a shot rip from 20 yards that struck a Portland defender either in the chest or his arm, on his chest. The referee blew his whistle and started running to the penalty spot and the Timbers naturally stopped. Tim Cahill then knocked the ball in the net while the Red Bulls pointed for a penalty. The referee, at this point apparently aware that he had blown his whistle for a hand ball in the box that shouldn't have been called, then decided to pretend like he never blew his whistle and gave New York the goal for Cahill's shot that came after his whistle.
From two down to level at halftime, New York was given life. Just because they were back in it didn't mean that they started playing well, though. They were poor at the back and only the heroic of Bill Gaudette kept the Timbers from going back in front.
New York also got a second gift from the referee when he failed to spot a reckless elbow by Cahill, who caught Kimura. The Red Bulls' forward vicious elbow knocked Kimura to the ground and forced him to be stretchered off, but while the referee missed it, Cahill should expect the disciplinary committee to weigh in and suspend him.
The referee had nothing to do about New York's last goal, though. Once again it was Solli who provided the service, hitting a great ball in from the right that found Heath Pearce to nod home for the winner and preserve the Red Bulls' home mark.