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Portland Timbers

It was the 88th minute on Saturday night in Chester, Pennsylvania, and Fanendo Adi was squaring up to a penalty kick to break a tie with John Bain and become the Portland Timbers' greatest goalscorer of all-time.

Adi, facing reigning MLS Goalkeeper of the Year Andre Blake in the Philadelphia Union goal, slotted the record-breaker down the middle. He grabbed the ball as it bounced out of the net and put it in his shirt in celebration — only for Philadelphia center back Oguchi Onyewu to come charging in and knock the ball away.

It was a fairly unsporting moment — and Oneywu, for good measure, would send Darren Mattocks off the field on a stretcher moments later — but Adi, characteristically, was unfazed. He never even broke his smile, continuing to soak in his moment with assists from his teammates and an unhappy Union ballboy.

It episode spoke to a larger theme. Adi's growth as a soccer player since his arrival three years ago next month in Portland — thanks in large part to the Timbers' coaching staff and especially the great Sean McAuley — has been phenomenal.

But the native of Lagos has etched his name in Timbers history for reasons beyond his physical gifts. Through plenty of adversity in Portland, Adi has just kept playing: earnest, committed, and — always — scoring goals.

The Timbers left Chester with a 3-1 victory. Adi was joined on the scoresheet by Darlington Nagbe, and, for the first time in his seven-year MLS career, Roy Miller. Portland, with four wins from six games and two wins from three on the road, lead the league in points and goals through six weeks of the 2017 season.

It's been quite the start, and this victory was another heartening chapter in a spring that has been full of them.

When they've been at their best under Caleb Porter, the Timbers have been extremely reliable against inferior opponents and after bad results. Facing a winless and insipid Union team six days after dropping points at home against New England, this game checked both of those boxes — and the Timbers delivered.

That said, they took their own sweet time in doing so. In front of a middling and stereotypically ill-tempered Philadelphia crowd that booed Union manager Jim Curtin during pregame introductions, the Timbers made an extremely slow start.

Jake Gleeson made several fine saves as Portland struggled to connect basic passes, but Philadelphia got on the board from a set piece just before the half hour mark — with Richie Marquez rising up to head in a Haris Medunjanin corner.

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Portland Timbers

It was the kind of rut that the Timbers never dug themselves out of on the road last year. But this year's team is different, and the Timbers got a jolt from an unlikely source when Darlington Nagbe, whose last MLS goal came almost eleven months ago, fired a long shot through a crowd of Union players and past Blake to tie the game.

From there, the Timbers locked in. Nagbe was effective, Adi and Diego Valeri began to pop up in dangerous positions, the fullbacks began to get forward, and, twenty minutes into the second half, the Portland pressure told.

Valeri swung in an excellent free-kick, which Miller ran onto ahead of Marquez and flicked into the bottom right corner of the net. It was Valeri's 45th assist for Portland, Miller's first goal in 140 MLS appearances, and it gave the Timbers a lead they never truly looked like they would relinquish.

The Union threw on three attacking players, but they were unable to generate any offense from wide positions — where Marco Farfan and Alvas Powell were both dominant defensively — and lacked the creativity needed to penetrate through the middle of the field.

Instead, it was a Timbers substitute who made the game's final telling play when Darren Mattocks — who almost single-handedly beat the Union in Portland last September — ran through Fabinho and onto a clearance and raced into the box where he was tripped by Blake.

Adi would convert the resulting penalty, and the Timbers would go home with three points and a slice of history in tow.

The big man wasn't the only player due for special praise. Miller, reviled during his days with the New York Red Bulls, has been almost alarmingly steady for the Timbers — with the go-ahead goal a just reward for a terrific month of work in Liam Ridgewell's stead.

Farfan, meanwhile, was outstanding again — this time with Vytas watching from the bench — and he's about to be engaged in a battle royal for the starting left back job that, just a month ago, no one saw coming.

The competition is good. Though Porter erred in not making any substitutions last weekend, he has to be pleased with the cases made by his depth players at different points this season — Miller, Farfan, Dairon Asprilla in Columbus, the always hard-charging Mattocks in this game — for more playing time.

There is little doubt that, top to bottom, this is the best Timbers team ever assembled and just the second team in club history with a shot at contending for the Supporters' Shield.

Until Saturday, Portland had never even scored a goal in Philadelphia. After Saturday, despite asleep at the wheel for the better part of the first half, the Timbers had won just their second-ever win by a multi-goal margin at an Eastern Conference opponent and hit a milestone in the process.

As long as they stay healthy, there should be plenty more memorable days to come.