So much for that.
Though they took on plenty of water throughout a 2016 season that was far more turbulent than it ever portended to be, the Portland Timbers entered the final day of the MLS season in an excellent position: Beat the ninth-placed Vancouver Whitecaps, and make the playoffs.
It wasn't an unreasonable ask. Vancouver, sitting in ninth place in the Western Conference, had been out of the postseason conversation for months. The biggest news from Whitecaps camp this week was that the team's two biggest stars, Pedro Morales and David Ousted, got into a fistfight at training.
But at 1:00 PM on Sunday afternoon, Vancouver, with nothing more than pride on the line, came to play. The Timbers didn't. And they got straight up flattened.
When the dust settled, the Whitecaps hadn't just ended Portland's season. They'd also, by virtue of winning by three goals, snatched the Cascadia Cup away from the Timbers on goal difference.
Portland came out looking like The Challenger. It was carnage from the word go. Giles Barnes — rediscovering his form about three months too late for Vancouver — blazed in his first goal of the afternoon after just twelve minutes to give the Whitecaps the lead.
Not ten minutes later, Darren Mattocks' freed himself on the wing and fed Fanendo Adi, who, posting up on Tim Parker, poked the ball off the post into the path of Lucas Melano, who somehow missed an open net from three yards.
Melano would be pulled off for Jack Barmby at halftime, and if there can be a more ignominious end to a Timbers career, it's hard to imagine what it is.
The 'Caps would double their lead just after the half hour mark, with Giles Barnes stealing the ball off of a Timbers' throw-in on the left wing, skating through the defense, and slipping the ball past a helpless Jake Gleeson.
Vancouver, with the Cascadia Cup now in sight, kept pouring it on after halftime. Morales latched onto a Jermaine Taylor giveaway on the top left corner of box and lashed his shot past Gleeson for 3-0. Nicolas Mezquida would make it four moments later after blazing past Jack Jewsbury onto a ball over the top.
It was a massacre all over the field.
Without Diego Chara, suspended due to yellow card accumulation, the Timbers' central midfield of Jewsbury and Darlington Nagbe was completely overrun. Portland got little defensive help from its wingers, while the all-Taylor central defensive partnership was a circus.
Diego Valeri pulled a goal back from the penalty spot late-on, but the Timbers never even managed to mount a charge for a second goal that would have won back the Cascadia Cup.
This collapse — capitulation, meltdown, take your pick — goes down as the single most embarrassing moment in the club's history to date. When you're landing comparisons to the 2009 edition of Toronto FC, you know you've been seriously humiliated.
I didn't think the Timbers would get the job done in this game — fool me once, shame on you; fool me sixteen times, shame on me — but this performance laid to rest any lingering doubts about the true nature of this team.
They were pretenders, by and large, and they got exposed. Point to the absence of Chara and Liam Ridgewell for this game if you want, but remember that the Timbers won playoff games last year without both men.
Portland becomes just the third club in MLS history to miss the playoffs the season after winning MLS Cup. They were the only team in the league not to win a road game this year, and, while that consistency isn't unimpressive, it was actually the club's seven-game road losing streak to finish the campaign which sunk its playoff hopes.
Throw in the Timbers' elimination from the CONCACAF Champions League on Wednesday, and you have a crushingly disappointing season — one in which the club did not accomplish a single one of the goals it had set out with.
When you think about all the promise that this year began with some seven months ago on Opening Day against Columbus, and that's a bitter pill to swallow.
But you could feel the season drawing to this kind of conclusion for months. Last year's team was nails. Man for man, day after day. They got stuck in. This year's team, by comparison, was full of soft spots and holes that never got filled.
The recriminations — for this week, and this season — will be strong. Melano is done. Fanendo Adi, whose temper was just this side of Lou Piniella's over the last month, could be on his way out as well. A number of role players will leave too, and Steven Taylor isn't the answer to any question that's not "which MLS player most resembles a building?"
The margins are thin in MLS, and some of the Timbers' struggles this year will be chalked up to the natural give-and-take that all teams experience after a championship season. But the thin margins are what makes MLS fun — there's little room for error, and the Timbers erred plenty this year.
It's extremely unfortunate that Sunday had to be Jewsbury's final game. This certainly wasn't the old captain's finest hour, and he was hurting after the final whistle. But it's impossible to conjure any pity for the team around him. They had their chances, and when push came to shove, they fell apart.
2015 was glorious. But 2016 was a mess, and it was always going to end ignominiously. A long, hard offseason awaits.