The Portland Timbers began the Simple Invitational in terrific form on Sunday night at Providence Park, running circles around Minnesota United in a 4-0 win.

The Timbers' goals came from Fanendo Adi, Lucas Melano, Darlington Nagbe, and Diego Valeri, and while this was a preseason game against a minor league team, it served as a pleasant and promising reminder of why this team hoisted MLS Cup just two and a half months ago in Columbus.

Here are three thoughts... AFTER THE JUMP>>>

1. All Is Well With The Champions

There were some personnel holes along the defense with both Liam Ridgewell and Chris Klute out of action, but what amounts to the bulk of the Timbers' starting eleven looked extremely comfortable β€” picking up right where they left off last season.

It must be said that the Timbers' reserves probably could have put up a better and more seemly fight than Minnesota United did, but this Portland performance was extremely unusual for a preseason game in the middle of February. It was crisp, purposeful, confident, and, as the game wore on, ruthless.

Compared to Chicago and Vancouver, who muddled through the early game, the Timbers looked like Barcelona. Portland, remember, hasn't lost since the advent of the three-man central midfield last year β€” and if Valeri plays each week like he did on Sunday, that stat might hold up for a while longer.

It's more obvious now than ever that we're about to enter a completely different kind of Timbers season. This team isn't building towards anything. It's already there. That doesn't mean another title uncharted territory for this club.

2. It's Happening for Dairon Asprilla

The evolution of Jorge VillafaΓ±a from serviceable MLS player to Best XI caliber fullback was one of the most enjoyable and most important parts of last year's title run β€” and it's very early days, but Dairon Asprilla looks like a candidate for similar growth in 2016.

Asprilla's game is power, and raw power β€” especially in the final third β€” is a less plentiful commodity in MLS than might be imagined. Asprilla, now entrenched as a starter in his second season in Portland, got off to a quick start on Sunday.

The Columbian got an assist with a beautiful low cross on the Timbers' second goal, and blew Minnesota goalkeeper Sammy Ndjock backwards with a second half shot that that Ndjock parried aside. But even more promising was Asprilla's comfort in tight spaces and defensive awareness. If he continues to improve, Rodney Wallace's departure may be a blessing in disguise.

In any case, Asprilla is a unique player on this Timbers roster. He's going to be a major part of whatever the club does this season.

3. What Is It About This Game?

For all the Timbers' attacking precision and creativity, there was an ugly side to this game. Minnesota gave away two penalties and had two players sent off β€” one in each half β€” for a couple of egregious tackles on Valeri.

There were tactical fouls too β€” Nagbe got pulled down by his arm as he spun free late in the game with the Timbers up by four. Minnesota β€” set to enter MLS next season β€” left a sour impression. The Loons were overly negative both in their setup and execution.

Sound familiar? Portland had similar problems in their first Simple Invitational game last year against Vancouver. There were two red cards in that game too, a broken ACL for Ben Zemanski, and consequences β€” Timbers-Whitecaps taking place on Wednesday instead of the weekend β€” that have stretched into this year.

This year's contest was only marginally better, and in many ways, the best thing about Sunday's game is that it's over. An injury, especially to someone like Valeri, would be calamitous β€” and injuries may be the only thing that can ultimately stop these Timbers.