Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
Ten minutes into their showdown with the Seattle Sounders in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinal on Sunday afternoon at Providence Park, the Portland Timbers appeared to be in serious trouble.

Seattle had dominated the opening stage of the game and had just taken the lead through their Peruvian striker Raul Ruidiaz — a big moment in any game, a bigger one considering that the Sounders entered with a perfect playoff record when scoring first.

Then, in a flash, none of that mattered. The Timbers turned it on.

A scintillating 35 minutes later, Portland had a 2-1 lead, the Sounders had lost two key starters to injuries, and Providence Park was on fire. That 2-1 scoreline held up the rest of the way, giving Giovani Savarese a signature win and the Timbers a decided advantage heading to Seattle for the second leg on Thursday.

There just might be something special happening here. The Timbers have now won four games on the bounce, that loss with a second-string in Vancouver on the final day of the regular season excused, and there very well might not be not be a team in this league that they aren't capable of beating.

This wasn't a blowout by any stretch of the imagination, but the end of the first half was a tour de force.

Before that, though, the Timbers started flat. After just five minutes, Nouhou Tolo got forward and sent in a low cross which Ruidiaz easily shook Liam Ridgewell to get on the end of.

He scuffed the finish, but the ease with which he pulled away from the veteran center back was a harbinger of what was to come. Five minutes later, it was Christian Roldan firing off a low cross, Ruidiaz again getting inside of Ridgewell, and this time slamming the ball past Jeff Attinella to give the Sounders the lead.

That seemed to wake the Timbers up. Sure enough, just seven minutes later, they were level.

The decisive play started with Ridgewell making amends for his difficult start — winning a header and then a knockdown against three Sounders players and stabbing the ball to Chara, who hit Valeri, who uncorked a lovely outside-of-the-foot pass for Ebobisse, who raced onto it and chipped Stefan Frei to tie the game.

It was a fabulously cool finish from the young forward, whose emergence has been such a critical piece of the puzzle over the last month, and it was indicative of the onslaught that was underway: all of the sudden, the Sounders were pinned in and the Timbers were buzzing — generating all kinds of traffic, largely through Valeri, in the middle of Seattle's vaunted defensive structure.

Then, just before the half hour mark, they pounced in transition again.

Ebobisse nicked in to knock the ball away from Osvaldo Alonso into the path of Valeri, who drove forward through a challenge and into the box, was tackled by Chad Marshall, and watched as Blanco took possession off of the resulting deflection, chopped Kelvin Leerdam, and sent the ball squirming into the far corner.

The 21,144 inside Providence Park, who set the building's press box to shaking after the Timbers' first goal, exploded again.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers
The Sounders, for whom things have snowballed in Portland before, were staring at a full-fledged storm. Not only had they completely lost their grip on the game, but they were also about to lose two key starters to injury.

Roldan, first hobbled in a collision with Attinella in the aftermath of Ruidiaz's first chance, exited after Blanco's goal. Then, five minutes before halftime, Marshall crumpled to the turf holding his knee after playing a routine pass and departed on a stretcher.

Marshall is a titan, but with Roman Torres waiting in the wings, his departure wasn't nearly as costly as that of Roldan — whose replacement Waylon Francis saw a ton of the ball down in tandem with Nouhou on Seattle's lefthand side in the second half and was able to do very, very little with it.

Francis ended up being substituted himself in the final minutes of the game, and it'd be a shock if he plays any part, regardless of Roldan's status, on Thursday night.

As a whole, the second half was every bit the cagey, conservative tête-à-tête that the first half wasn't. Seattle, having absorbed the body blows before the break, dominated possession and got a fair amount of traction working against Zarek Valentin on the Timbers' right, but carved out few serious chances.

Defensively, the Timbers were tough. Bill Tuiloma was strong in Larrys Mabiala's absence, while Chara, quietly, was sensational. He missed just five passes and delivered a game-high 16 defensive actions, all while avoiding any kind of confrontation that might have earned him a suspension-inducing yellow card.

As time ticked away, the Timbers began again to get chances of their own. Frei did exceedingly well to palm away a long Valeri strike headed for the bottom corner, minutes before Lucas Melano slammed a rebound into the back of the net and wheeled away in celebration, only to be deflated by the sight of an offside flag.

With a disappointing pair of late finishes — one from Seattle's Victor Rodriguez after an exchange with Ruidiaz, the other from Valeri after he broke cleanly onto an in-swinging Blanco cross — the game ended at 2-1.

It's a result that both teams can be pleased with. The Sounders, for their part, will feel that they averted a potential disaster. They got their away goal, meaning that they can advance with a 1-0 win on Thursday night, and kept the game tight after losing their lead and two of their most core contributors.

They won't panic. Brian Schmetzer has seen a lot of soccer in his lifetime, and he was every bit as calm after the game as he was before it started.

His field general Alonso, never shy, offered this summery of the series before it shifts north: “2-1 is nothing. We have the game in our hands."

But even those two must know that it's the Timbers, with so lethal when allowed to defend deep and counter, for whom the second leg sets up better. Seattle is going to have to push numbers forward on Thursday night, and that will invariably play, at some point, in Portland's hands.

What is absolutely certain is that the second leg is going to be a war. It will be the fifth game between these teams in 2018, the first four of which have been decided by a single goal, played on short rest under the lights at CenturyLink Field with a trip to the Western Conference Final on the line.

Having fun yet? It's November in Cascadia — and the Timbers are once again on the doorstep of bringing Seattle's season to a sudden close.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers