A Minnesota United season that started seven months ago with four consecutive losses ended Sunday in Portland with just one, a 3-1 first-round playoff loss at Providence Park.
The Loons went 6-0-1 in their previous seven games against the Timbers, including their last two played in Portland and both games this season.
But that was regular season or U.S. Open Cup play. This was playoff soccer played without Loons starting goalkeeper Tyler Miller.
Loons coach Adrian Heath called himself "disappointed in some of our play" after his team scored in the 11th minute, and then not again all afternoon.
The fourth-seeded Timbers advanced to play at Colorado on Thursday in MLS' first Thanksgiving Day game. The fifth-seeded Loons go home for the winter after reaching the playoffs for the third consecutive season.
It's the second time they have lost in the first round. Last season, they reached the Western Conference final.
"We were better than three-quarters of the league," Heath said of a MLS in which 14 of 27 teams make the playoffs. "Everybody can't make the playoffs. I'm pleased for the players' efforts. We didn't give ourselves too much room for error from the start, so certainly the players responded. We've had large chunks of the season where our best players were not available. I don't think that helped us, but we'll adjust ourselves now, let the players have some time off and recharge their batteries.
"And we'll come back again."
Loons veteran midfielder Wil Trapp called the loss and playoff exit "a little bit of a microcosm" of a season that both he and Heath termed "inconsistent."
"You have good moments, you have not-so-good moments," Trapp said. "We didn't come out where we wanted to be. Over the course of the season we showed that in our group. The reasons for it at this moment, I don't have the exact answer."
Miller tweeted before the game he tested positive for COVID-19 and would not play. Dayne St. Clair started his first game since May 8 instead, an unexpected circumstance that Heath called "not ideal obviously. You worry one or two others could be affected."
St. Clair delivered a performance about which Heath said, "I don't think we can blame him for anything today."
The last time the Loons played at Portland, newcomer Adrien Hunou scored a second-minute goal that the Loons made stand on a 108-degree day in June.
This time, they couldn't make winger Franco Fragapane's 11th-minute goal stand up.
Timbers defender Larrys Mabiala's header above the crowd tied it in the 43rd minute just before halftime. Sebastian Blanco then scored the first of his two goals in the 46th minute just after halftime.
All season, the Loons gave up too many goals not long before halftime or not long after. They did so again on Sunday, when Heath said the Timbers scored their first goal "at the right time" and their second one the same.
"Then you start to chase the game a little bit and you leave yourself susceptible," Heath said. "I don't think we did enough tonight."
They left themselves susceptible to a Timbers comeback by becoming what Trapp called a team that "stopped playing" and "bunkered a little too much" after getting that first goal.
"It's always tricky because now you're thinking we don't want to open ourselves up and leave ourselves susceptible," Trapp said. "We needed to be a little bit more forthright, thinking it's still 0-0."
They also left themselves susceptible to Blanco's two highlight-reel goals on a day he outplayed fellow Argentinians Fragapane and Loons star Emanuel Reynoso.
All week, Heath predicted whichever team's best players played the best would win.
On Sunday, that was Blanco, who is back from a knee injury and seemed to labor all afternoon with a bad back. He scored twice — his fourth and fifth goals in his last three games — nonetheless.
His first was a one-bounce volley strike that came on a cross through the 18-yard box to him on the right side. St. Clair had no chance.
His second came after the Loons turned the ball over at midfield and teammate Josecarlos Van Rankinpushed the ball forward with all kinds of space before him. Blanco received a short pass, took one long touch and buried a curving strike high into the goal.
"He was probably the best player on the field tonight," Heath said. "He's probably why they won the game."
The Star Tribune did not travel for this game. This article was written using the television broadcast and video interviews before and/or after the game.