It wasn't a pretty week in Portland, and the 1-0 win that extended the Timbers' 2016 MLS season on Sunday afternoon at Providence Park wasn't pretty either.
But 41 fouls, nine yellow cards, two penalties, two posts, the miss of the season, and a whole lot of rain later, the Timbers — after all of the adversity they've both faced and inflicted this year — stand one win away from returning to the MLS Cup Playoffs with a chance to defend their crown.
That game will come next Sunday in Vancouver, where the Timbers have racked up plenty of big wins over the years. On Wednesday night, Portland will play to advance in the CONCACAF Champions League. Everything that this team set out to accomplish this season is still, remarkably, on the table.
This win, which came against a Colorado Rapids team that entered the day leading the race for the Supporters' Shield, was a must-have. It was also a fitting send-off for Jack Jewsbury, who, on the occasion of his final regular season game at Providence Park, played flawlessly.
Liam Ridgewell graciously ceded the captain's armband back to Jewsbury for his final home match — and, with Jewsbury captaining the team and John Spencer in the house for the first time since he was fired by the Timbers in 2012 — the game had a certain throwback quality to it.
Portland did enter with a distinct advantage, having had a full two weeks off since they last played before the October international break. Colorado wasn't so lucky. The Rapids played on Thursday night in Commerce City, and thus, Pablo Mastroeni rotated his team.
That meant no Marlon Hariston — a major let-off for Vytas — and 19-year-old forward Caleb Calvert making his first MLS start up top in place of Dominic Badji.
Calvert was in the game to throw his body around. Soccer wasn't really on his agenda, but he made his mark early by undercutting Ridgewell on the sideline and sending the Timbers captain flying into the advertising boards.
Ridgewell, who knew full that a yellow card in this game would see him suspended for the finale in Vancouver, responded by kneeing Marco Pappa in the back while going up for a header and getting himself booked.
It was the vein in which the game would be played. Fanendo Adi once again engaged in a spitting contest with Jarred Watts, while around him — mostly via the outstanding central midfield trio of Jewsbury, Diego Chara, and Darlington Nagbe — Portland took control of proceedings.
Colorado, as they've done all year, limited the Timbers' chances and scrambled effectively from open play. But they got themselves into a world of hurt just after the half hour mark as a Diego Valeri free-kick set off a mad scramble in the box that end with Bobby Burling scissoring down Vytas and conceding a penalty.
Fanendo Adi — who had been taken off penalty duty earlier in the season — stepped up and sent Tim Howard the wrong way to give Portland the lead.
Then, just three minutes later, the Timbers would win another penalty. The Rapids inexplicably failed to clear a blocked cross, Vytas stole in, and former Seattle Sounder Michael Azira pulled him down. That's when the circus began.
Caleb Porter has never dictated who takes Portland's spot-kicks, and Adi has never been shy. But Adi is, at best, a mediocre penalty taker — and Howard, at the second time of asking — saved a meek attempt back into the path of the striker, who proceeded to miss an empty net from six yards.
It was an astounding miss, and, as it would turn out, it set up a fairly nervous second half.
In the first 45 minutes, the Rapids didn't look appreciably different from the team that was rooted to the bottom of the Western Conference last season. They couldn't break pressure, they couldn't possess they ball, and they weren't getting any holdup play.
But Colorado is where they are right now for a reason, and in the second half, they showed their metal. Pablo Mastroeni's team bounced back into the game, with space opening up for the likes of Pappa, Kevin Doyle, and Shkelzen Gashi.
It'd be Doyle who'd go closest — first hitting the crossbar on a header midway through the second half, and then turning and sending a shot skidding along the wet turf and onto the right post just four minutes from time. In between those chances, Jake Gleeson was at full-stretch to tip away a laser from Rapids captain Sam Cronin.
The Timbers, who seem to have a special relationship with posts around this time of the year. After 97 minutes, they had hung onto the game and their season — but not before Chara had also gotten himself banned for the Vancouver game with a yellow card and Diego Valeri had limped off injured.
It's also worth noting that Adi's miss on the second penalty and accompanying rebound could still bite the Timbers. Right now, Portland trails Sporting Kansas City for sixth place on a goal differential tiebreaker by a single goal.
But as ugly as this one was, the Timbers, at home, have been money this year. The pervading theory around the club is that they've underachieved on the road, which is true — but it's also probably true that they've overachieved at home.
All that's to say this: The Providence Park factor isn't imagined. Portland has only lost twice in its last 28 home games. It wasn't shut out once at home all season.
So in many ways, the way this season has shaken out for the Timbers feels completely just. One road win — just one little road win — will be enough to make the playoffs. And if Portland can't get a single road win, their season will deservedly be over.
And here's the thing: With Chara suspended next week, and Ben Zemanski out with a collapsed lung, we very well might see Jack Jewsbury — inarguably one of his team's standout performers on Sunday — playing the single-pivot at 35 years old in the team's most important game of the season.
As a tribute to Jewsbury — who will be missed on the field just as much as he'll be missed off it — and Valeri, who is perhaps the single most deserving man ever to win the Timbers Army's Supporters Player of the Year award, Sunday was perfect.
Thanks in large part to those two, the Timbers are still alive — and at this stage of the season, as long as you're alive, you've got a shot.