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Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

Mired in their worst run of form in five years and missing an eye-popping twelve first team players, the Portland Timbers appeared to be in dire straits as they trekked up to Vancouver for a Sunday afternoon clash with the suddenly-ascendent Whitecaps.

But the Timbers who took the field were decidedly not overwhelmed. They came to take care of business — and thanks to two players in particular, that's exactly what they did.

Through Jeremy Ebobisse's goal and assist, and Jake Gleeson's saves, Portland won its first match in a month and a half and first road game since the beginning of April 2-1 at BC Place.

It wasn't a great game, and it wasn't a vintage performance. But for everyone in the Timbers' locker-room — everyone still standing, that is — this will be the sweetest and most savored result of a season that, as few as twenty four hours ago, seemed to be sliding into the twilight zone.

This morning, it looks a whole lot different.

This result was classic MLS, but it wasn't a fluke. Portland, running with a squad of sixteen that included two temporary T2 call-ups, outplayed Vancouver — and took the lead after just thirteen minutes when rookie forward Jeremy Ebobisse, making his first MLS start, turned in a low cross from Dairon Asprilla.

Vancouver would equalize just before halftime, with Andrew Jacobson stabbing in a flick-on header from Tim Parker, but the Timbers would reclaim their goal-advantage just four minutes after the restart — with an Ebobisse sending Sebastian Blanco through to slot his fourth goal of the season past David Ousted.

Blanco set up the goal with a full-field run, but it was Ebobisse — finally getting an opportunity with both Fanendo Adi and Darren Mattocks unavailable — whose ingenuity made it.

After a season of Adi's hulking presence and long shadow — in good times and bad — the spry Duke product was a welcome change of pace up top. His mobility put all kinds of pressure on the Vancouver defense and opened up the kind of space in the attacking half of midfield that Blanco exploited on his goal.

Ebobisse didn't wilt physically either. He locked horns successfully on multiple occasions with Vancouver's stand-in captain Tim Parker — and by the time he came off with a minor injury in the 76th minute, he had pretty well run himself into the ground.

It was the kind of out-of-nowhere lift that the Timbers were always going to need with this many contributors missing. But it wouldn't have counted for much if Jake Gleeson, so often a figure of scorn this year, hadn't come up with his best game of the season.

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Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP

There were signs going into Sunday that Gleeson might be rounding into form. The goalkeeper had acquitted himself very nicely against what amounted to a firing squad on Wednesday night against Real Salt Lake, and, sure enough, he was superb in this game — alive with the kind of instinctual, unhesitating, consistent shot-stopping that won him the starting job in such sensational fashion last season.

When Gleeson is locked in, the game comes remarkably easily to him — and on two late occasions, the first a turning snapshot from Brek Shea and the second a close-in header from Parker, he came up with the saves necessary to preserve the lead.

And outside of set pieces and long balls hoisted over the top towards Fredy Montero, the 'Caps had few attacking ideas. Carl Robinson threw on both Yordy Reyna and Alphonso Davies for the final half hour, but neither found their feet as the team's attack fell further and further out of synch.

The Timbers, with a T2 kid named Harold Hansen playing on the right wing after Dairon Asprilla went down clutching his calf in front of the Vancouver bench, closed the door with all that much resistance in stoppage time.

Vancouver should be extremely disappointed. Presented with a chance to bury their weakened southern rivals and move up to third in the Western Conference, they played one of their worst home games of the season.

It was a performance typical of the Whitecaps, who have over the last several years frequently flirted with contention and almost always been exposed as pretenders.

The Timbers, on the other hand, still have a championship pedigree to call on — and this result called to mind several from the 2015 season, including the surprise shorthanded wins at Real Salt Lake and at LA that jumpstarted the club's title run.

The effort in this win, for certain, mirrored the effort in those. Blanco and Diego Valeri were everywhere. Diego Chara, at half speed, came up with a defensive stat-line that nine recoveries, four clearances, two interceptions, and two blocked shots, while the defense behind, anchored by Larrys Mabiala, was in complete control from the run of play.

When the final whistle sounded, the club, as a whole, seemed to exhale. Porter let out a roar and took off down his technical area pumping his fists. Gleeson, grinning ear-to-ear, shared a long embrace with his goalkeeping coach Adin Brown.

The New Zealander, so often a woebegone figure during what has been an immensely trying campaign, wasn't the only one with reason to smile. The Timbers in this game, man for man, from the first minute to the last, put in an estimable effort — and this first win in six weeks was a most just reward.