Portland Timbers fans even 30 seconds late to tuning into the club's Saturday-afternoon match against Minnesota United FC must have thought they were dreaming.
Sebastián Blanco's early strike will statistically go down as a first-minute goal, but the ball hit the back of the net in the 13th second –– the earliest goal scored this MLS season by a landslide and a new all-time record for the earliest goal scored in franchise history. Take another glance at the league's record books and you'll find only three other names above the the Timbers' midfielder.
Six different players touched the ball in the build-up as Blanco played give-and-go passes all over the field before tucking the ball past Loons goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair to give Portland an early 1-0 lead.
Portland's complete team goal kicked off an absolutely wild match that included eight combined goals and several other near-misses. While Giovanni Savarse's team couldn't expel its Twin Cities voodoo –– still winless in the Land of 10,000 Lakes through six attempts –– it managed to extend its current season unbeaten run to eight matches.
"The mood from the team was a little disappointed and angry, too, because I think we were a good team today and we could have won this game," Blanco said following the match.
Here are a few instant observations following a dramatic 90 minutes that felt more like a fever dream than regular season soccer game.
Portland's offense flashes glimpses of its sky-high ceiling
You couldn't even write up the twists and turns that took place on Saturday afternoon.
After taking an early lead, the Timbers blinked and found themselves behind 2-1 before the 22nd minute and down 3-1 heading into halftime. The game turned into a track meet as the Loons sliced through the visitor's defense all too often.
Then, shortly after halftime, Portland threw its haymaker.
Blanco completed his brace in the 50th minute with a sweet strike from the top of the box and three minutes later Jaroslaw Niezgoda scored his sixth goal in seven matches to tie the game at three apiece and silence the raucous Loons faithful. In the 65th minute, Blanco forced a Minnesota own goal to give Portland an improbable 4-3 lead.
"In the second half we opened the field, we played wide and created many chances," Blanco said. "Unfortunately we couldn't keep the result, but we know this field is difficult and we had to take advantage of the momentum."
This time, instead of question marks, the Timbers showed what they are truly capable of when things click. As confidence built, so too did quick combinations in transition and opportunistic strikes to test St. Clair. "A tale of two halves" is an often-used trope, but it perfectly describes Saturday's chaos.
So, no, it won't officially go down as a first win in Minnesota. However, Portland learned a lot about its flaws, displayed its mettle and will certainly take a valuable point back to the Pacific Northwest as the 2022 Audi MLS Cup Playoff race heats up.
No rest for the weary: Timbers must move on quickly with midweek clash against Nashville SC
Speaking of playoffs, the Timbers must quickly move on with a midweek match against Nashville SC on August 3 fast approaching (7:30pm PT, TICKETS, FOX 12 PLUS).
Once again, there will be playoff implications on the line as both teams sit just above the playoff line with 31 points each, at least for now. The teams played to a 2-2 draw in Nashville on July 3, but the Timbers want all three points in a pivotal rematch at Providence Park.
Portland will have to face the challenge without both Diego Chara and Dairon Asprilla, who will each serve one-match suspensions for yellow card accumulation after picking up yellow cards in Saturday's match. It won't be easy, but these are the games and results teams look back at come Decision Day on Oct. 9 and as of now, the Timbers are right in the thick of the playoff race.
"One thing I know 100% is that whoever is going to step on the field on Wednesday is going to give their heart to make sure they work hard for the team and we try to get another good result," Savarese said. "That's the mentality the team has right now, but we have a lot to figure out for Wednesday."