Minnesota United's roaring, rollicking 3-3 draw at the L.A. Galaxy was the fitting finish to a long Sunday that proved MLS "Decision Day" is good for the league.
But how is it for coaches?
"Well, I wouldn't like to go through it every week," Loons coach Adrian Heath said.
Heath's blue tie still was almost perfectly knotted after a game in which his team needed a victory or a draw to earn themselves a playoff berth for a third consecutive season.
On a day when 11 teams still competed for the final six playoff spots, New York Red Bulls snagged the East's seventh and final playoff spot with a draw. Real Salt Lake earned the final one in the West on a 95th-minute winning goal that left both the Galaxy and Loons knowing in their game's final minutes that one of their seasons was about to end.
The Loons survived, hanging on to get that draw they absolutely needed.
Still fifth place in the Western Conference at night's end, the Loons will play at fourth-seeded Portland when MLS Cup playoffs begin in two weeks.
With Los Angeles unable to score that needed fourth goal, the Loons made the playoffs after starting the season with four losses. No team has done that in a full season since 1999, when the Tampa Bay Mutiny did it back when eight of 12 teams made the MLS playoffs.
NYCFC and Inter Miami both did so last year, but that was in a COVID-19-shortened season.
"We didn't give ourselves much room for error," Heath said. "There's only a few teams ever done it from that kind of start. I'm so pleased for the players and the staff and everybody back in Minnesota. It has been a really stressful day, as you can see. We came through it."
The Loons led 2-0 after 34 minutes on goals by half their attacking front four — Adrien Hunou with his seventh and Robin Lod with his ninth — but allowed one goal in stoppage time before halftime and another on Galaxy star Chicharito's sweeping equalizer right after halftime.
When L.A. defender Julian Araujo firmly struck the ball into his own goal trying to keep it out from Hunou's sharp-angled shot, the Loons led again, 3-2, in the 62nd minute.
Chicharito tied it yet again, in the 75th minute. He had two swings with his leg and knocked one out of the air with a turning, falling swipe that beat Loons goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
Miller made seven saves, including one that saved the season in the 94th minute.
"I don't know, this game easily could have ended up 10-10," Lod said. "Both teams had fair enough chances. Luckily for us, the three was enough."
The Loons could have made it easier on themselves if Franco Fragapane's 89th-minute penalty kick hadn't hit the left post.
About that time, both teams learned Real Salt Lake star Damir Kreilach's 95th-minute goal won the game and final playoff spot 1-0 at Sporting Kansas City. That meant one more Galaxy goal would send the Galaxy to the playoffs — and send the Loons home for the winter.
Heath sent subs Brent Kallman and Fanendo Adi in for stoppage time, changing the formation to a defensive 5-4-1. He said he gave Kallman, Adi and others a message.
"We told them we can't concede again or we'd be out," Heath said. "Sometimes you don't want to do that. Then it does get nervy and people start doing things they shouldn't. But they probably guessed it from listening to the crowd."
Count Heath among the nervy.
"Coming from Europe where we have promotion and relegating, I've been through it a few times," Heath said. "I know how nerve-wracking it can be. You're always one mistake from being out and that would have been a travesty, the way played today."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this event. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the event.