In their warm-ups, the Portland Timbers looked exhausted. Saturday's match against the Vancouver Whitecaps was to be the Timbers' third in a week, and the players seemed to be dragging their heels, with a passive feeling filling Jeld-Wen Field.
Fortunately for the Timbers, they have two players from Colombia - the land of coffee. And Diego Chara and Jorge Perlaza were like two shots of espresso for Portland.
Each scored a first-half goal to help the Timbers feel the beat of the conga, and Portland survived a late scare for a 2-1 MLS win before an announced sellout crowd of 18,627.
Chara and Perlaza's performance was greatly appreciated by everyone on the Timbers.
'Viva la Colombia,' Timbers midfielder Jack Jewsbury shouted, as he walked passed the two player lockers.
As for the other nine players on Portland, coach John Spencer could not have been happier with the way they bled their hearts out onto the pitch.
'I started thinking that heavy legs was becoming a factor,' Spencer said. 'We managed to just dig deep. It wasn't about tactics tonight. I don't think it was about coaching. It was just about really, really digging deep and finding that extra yard or two to make a run or to make a tackle.'
The Timbers (8-12-5, 29 points) got an instant shot of adrenaline when Chara scored his first goal of the season just 76 seconds into the match - Portland's quickest goal of the season.
Jewsbury took the ball down the middle of the pitch. He found Perlaza on the right side. The striker cut between two defenders and dumped off a pass to Chara. The midfielder took a touch and sliced the ball into the inside of the near post from 10 yards.
'The goal comes at a great moment,' Chara said, through a translator. 'It's a play where I received the ball from Jorge and I get a good strike on the ball. And then that's my first goal.'
The Timbers made the score 2-0 in the 33rd minute when Perlaza scored his sixth goal of the season.
Once again, Jewsbury began the play. He lined up for a free kick on the left side from 25 yards. He sent the ball into the box. Portland's Mamadou 'Futty' Danso was just able to get a piece of the ball with his head. The ball ricocheted off a Whitecaps defender and fell to Perlaza in traffic. With three defenders bearing down upon him, Perlaza took a 7-yard right-footed shot. He sent the ball to the left post, passed Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
" 'Futty' fought in the air with a defender and wins the ball in the air and thanks to God the ball was there and I win it and I poked it in,' Perlaza said, through a translator. 'I was very happy because it came in a moment that we hoped to go up by two goals.'
Despite being up by two goals, Spencer still observed that his side looked tired as it tried to hold off the Whitecaps (3-13-9, 18 points).
'Going 2-nil up I still thought we looked tired,' Spencer said. 'And they're a very dangerous team.'
The Timbers emptied everything they had in their well of desire to keep Vancouver from coming all the way back.
Portland's offense occasionally had a hard time keeping possession. But when the Whitecaps moved into the attacking third, Portland's defense closed down on the ball and never gave Vancouver a good look at goal. The Timbers also had to deal with seven Vancouver corner kicks and numerous free kicks in dangerous areas.
'From the beginning of the season we'll bend but we won't break,' defender David Horst said, of the Timbers defense. 'We did very well tonight. There was a lot of corners for them, a lot of free kicks, but the guys dug deep. We were strong in the box every time.'
Pushing numbers for the final 10 minutes, the Whitecaps eventually broke down the Timbers back line and made the match seem much less one-sided than it was by scoring in the 88th minute.
Whitecaps defender Jordan Harvey took the ball down the left touchline. He sent a pass to midfielder Camilo, who had beaten Horst into the box. As Camilo raced toward the goal, Horst caught up to him. Camilo felt the pressure from Horst, turned 180 degrees to shield him from the ball, then finished the turn so he was facing the goal. Camilo fired a right-footed shot that beat Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins to the right post.
'I thought (Camilo) was offside,' Horst said. 'The ref didn't call it and then I was late recovering and he already had me beat by that time and there was nothing I could do about it. It was a mistake on me so I've got to put my hand up and take credit for it. You've got to play the game. That's what happens.'
The goal would not matter, though. A few moments later, the final whistle blew and the Timbers had snapped a two-match losing streak.
Things do not get much easier for the Timbers next week. They will have to play Chivas USA at home on Wednesday and travel to D.C. United on Saturday.
Spencer hopes that the gritty, Colombian-espresso fueled win Saturday night against their Cascadia rivals can help push the Timbers toward a playoff run.
'You don't want to get beat by your local rivals,' Spencer said. 'We felt tonight that it could be a little bit of a catalyst the rest of the way. We were worthy winners. Tonight was a real strength of character. Some guys didn't play to the maximum, but, they worked to the maximum and I was ever so proud of them.'