Looking sluggish out of the gate in the stifling, 100-degree Texas heat, the Timbers struggled to keep possession, especially in the attacking third. While Diego Valeri seemed to be pressing too hard for that miracle through ball or wall-pass to Ryan Johnson or Rodney Wallace, Nagbe was having trouble holding onto the ball with Andrew Jacobson constantly tugging at his shirt.
With Portland's possession game lacking its typical sharpness, FC Dallas were aggressive in intercepting passes and transitioning to attack. Time and again they were able to convert a lazy turnover into a blazing counter-attack, thanks to the speed up top provided by Jackson Goncalves and Fabian Castillo.
But it was a rather mundane pass from Blas Perez that set up Je-Vaughn Watson's goal, opening the scoring for Dallas in the 15th minute. Taking advantage of Portland's sluggishness, Perez drew the Timbers' midfielders to him, giving Watson the time and space he needed to put a low shot past Donovan Ricketts from outside the area.
Falling behind by a goal wasn't quite enough to wake the Timbers from their slumber, though, and the next 25 minutes looked very much like the first fifteen. As Portland tried to press higher up the pitch, Jackson and Castillo found beating the back line on the counter ever easier. This was especially true for Castillo, who far outmatched Ryan Miller, beating him time after time down the Dallas left flank. Thankfully for the Timbers, Castillo failed each time to set up a shot to challenge Ricketts.
Dallas' speed thus pinned Portland back into its defensive half and forced Nagbe to play much lower on the pitch to help cover Miller's wing. That limited opportunities to play the ball forward when the Timbers did manage to recover possession, leading to clearances off the back line that went straight to a Dallas player waiting at the halfway line.
Portland's fortunes changed in about the 40th minute as they began to route their attack down the wings instead of the through the middle. The end of the half brought a flurry of crosses in front of the Dallas goal, both from the run of play and on set pieces, but the resulting shots failed to beat the keeper.
The Timbers started the second half with a bit more physicality, showing more aggressiveness to win the ball and more willingness to put in that extra boot on a challenge. But still they had trouble working the ball up the field, while Miller still looked unable to contain Castillo.
The Timbers were undeterred, though -- particularly Captain Will Johnson. His offensive contribution was markedly increased in the second half and began to expose weaknesses in the Dallas defense, but his final touch was notably absent in this game, more reminiscent of Diego Chara.
Thankfully, Darlington Nagbe had a thing or two to say as well.
An hour of frustration finally boiled over for Nagbe in the 60th minute. With Andrew Jacobson hanging on his shirt all night, a fed-up Nagbe kicked the ball up into his own arms and demanded a call from the referee.
The ref responded with a caution for Jacobson, and Nagbe showed the Dallas fans just how pretty he is when he's angry.
Collecting the ball thirty yards from goal, Nagbe dribbled into the left side of the penalty area past Jackson, then past Jacobson, and then around Zach Loyd, before pounding a shot from near the end line through Chris Seitz's legs and inside the far post.
Two minutes later he received a pass at midfield and drilled a perfectly weighted aerial through-ball to Valeri, running past the Dallas back line. Valeri did what Timbers fans have come to expect from him when he has only the keeper to beat, and another one went through the wickets.
The game had suddenly and dramatically turned towards Portland's favor, but they still weren't done. With all the savvy of the veteran that he is, Frederic Piquionne gently applied pressure to rookie defender Walker Zimmerman, who was alone with the ball at the top of his own box, and then pounced on the weak backpass that resulted, scoring the Timbers' third goal in eleven minutes.
Both coaches made personnel and tactical adjustments for the final 15 minutes. The Timbers brought in Ben Zemanski in place of Nagbe, while Dallas replaced Castillo with Kenny Cooper. In Zemanski, Caleb Porter hoped to pass the game out, while Schellas Hyndman hoped Cooper would prove useful on late-match set pieces, which are strangely common in games involving FC Dallas.
But it wasn't a set piece that rekindled Dallas' hopes -- just a lazy cross in front of goal that Futty Danso easily cut out -- except his header went straight up into the air. With perhaps too much time to ponder his options, Ricketts wisely opted against trying to catch the ball inches in front of his own net. Instead, he chose a far worse course of action, weakly setting the ball straight into the path of Perez's charging head.
Portland looked to limit Dallas' opportunities late, winning aerial 50/50s in the middle of the pitch and passing confidently around the midfield. But Dallas took advantage of the scant possession they got, putting numbers forward and hoping that a scrum in front of goal might lead to an equalizer.
It very nearly did, in the dying seconds of the game, as David Ferreira found the ball at the top of the box and shot for the far post. All of Timbers nation then breathlessly watched the ball, seemingly in slow motion, slip past the defense and towards the goal. Ricketts, equally powerless to stop the shot, joined the fans in their collective gasp.
The post came through with heroic a goal-line save, and the Timbers collapsed in a combination of heat stroke and relief.
Full time: Portland 3, Dallas 2.