Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers

The story of Opening Day 2016 at Providence Park was, in so many ways, a continuation of the story of the final day of 2015.

Had the Columbus Crew beaten the Portland Timbers in the MLS Cup Final last December, this curtain-raiser would have been played in central Ohio. Instead, the Crew had to standby and watch as the Timbers unveiled their championship banner to a cacophony of noise in the America's soccer stadium.

Make no mistake: Columbus was and still very much is a good team โ€” and they played a good game โ€” but this wasn't their day. It was the Timbers' day. They earned it last year, and they earned it again on the field on Sunday, with a familiar 2-1 win.

It was a memorable afternoon. The Crew, no doubt, won't shed any tears at the prospect of not meeting the Timbers again until 2017. Portland, on the other hand, walks away from their first game of the new season once again believing that there is no one they cannot beat.

The occasion was certainly a treat, but so was the soccer. It was a meeting of two of MLS' elite clubs, and it lived up to its considerable ESPN billing.

Columbus dominated the ball for much of the match, but the Timbers were more than happy to sit back, absorb pressure, and break.

The result of the Crew committing numbers forward was plenty of room for the likes of Diego Valeri and Dairon Asprilla, and had the Colombian particularly been a tad sharper, the Timbers would have been out of sight by the hour mark.

As it were, Valeri still made his mark. The Maestro's inch-perfect free kick cross-shot went through untouched and snuck past the ever-hapless Steve Clark at the far post to give the Timbers the lead.

Portland would continue to charge into opportunity after opportunity on the counter โ€” with Darlington Nagbe sending a howitzer off the crossbar midway through the second half โ€” but it was a slice of brilliance from Columbus' own Argentine playmaker Federico Higuain that became the game's second goal.

Higuain fielded a deflected cross with a touch behind him, turned, and sent a bicycle kick past Adam Kwarasey. It was Higuain's second magic moment in Portland, after a 30-yard chip of Donovan Ricketts in 2014, but it wouldn't be enough.

Columbus was only on level terms for eleven minutes. In the end, it was Portland wingers โ€” Lucas Melano and Asprilla โ€” whose excellent play led to the game-winning tap-in.

And no one deserved to finish the decisive move more than Fanendo Adi, whose level of command of the Crew center-backs was summed up best by Columbus manager Gregg Berhalter post-game who, when asked about his team's inability to handle Adi, answered defensively, "How many guys [are there] like Adi in the league?"

Portland Timbers

The more famous striker in the game, Columbus' Kei Kamara, had considerably less impact. That was thanks in large part to the energetic work of Liam Ridgewell, who shook off a calf problem to harass Kamara and come up with a series of major interventions throughout the match.

Columbus' attack had some early success targeting Jermaine Taylor, Portland's makeshift fullback. But as the game wore on, Taylor buckled down. The Crew were very capable, but, outside of Higuain, rarely inspired โ€” and the Timbers always looked the more dangerous side.

Part of that was the matchup โ€” Portland clearly has Columbus' number โ€” but the truth is that there aren't many MLS sides better than the Crew. Take a look around the Western Conference right now. You'll see plenty of good teams and few great ones.

The Timbers aren't perfect โ€” Taylor isn't a long-term answer at left-back, and Porter clearly doesn't feel comfortable going with any of his attacking options off the bench โ€” but unlike in years past, they're going to have little trouble finding plenty of early-season success.

The 0-12 March record Porter came into this match saddled with? It's no more. The Timbers aren't going to need much time to build into this season. This team already knows exactly how it wants to play.

Sunday was just scratching the surface. As Porter said after the game, his team can do more. There will be hiccups along the way, but it's going to be fun watching this team get better and better.

Much of this team's upside is in Melano and Asprilla, along with Alvas Powell โ€” who was excellent in this match โ€” and, eventually, Chris Klute. Through the spine of the team โ€” connected ever-so-well by Diego Chara โ€” there isn't a single bone to pick.

As they enter their sixth MLS season, the Timbers look more self-assured than ever before. A championship will do that. So while the title celebrations reached their apex on Sunday, but the franchise-wide dopamine they generated will last for a long time.

Chips on shoulders are fine, but consistent success is better. For much of this game, it felt like the Timbers were stringing Columbus along. For a club long considered little brother to Seattle (1-0 losers on Opening Day), it was a decidedly big brother performance.

There was plenty to celebrate on Sunday. The Cup, the victory, the phenomenal support, the improbable sun, and, of course, the late rain. A new era of Timbers soccer โ€” a post-championship era โ€” is off to a terrific start, and the feeling here is that this was the first of many days owed in some part to the 2015 title run.

Before the match, the Timbers Army said it best. Dance. Kiss. Love. You always remember your first.

90 minutes later, the Timbers had taken the first step down the path towards their second.

Craig Mitchelldyer/Portland Timbers