It appeared as if the Portland Timbers thought they'd done the job. One of the players was even spotted on his knees in the middle of the field with his arms raised in triumph.
When referee Jair Marrufo whistled the end of extra time in a wild Western Conference Semifinal Leg 2, the visiting Timbers looked to celebrate as if they believed they had ousted their rival Seattle Sounders on the away goals tiebreaker.
The aggregate read 4-4, and the Timbers had scored two away goals compared to the Sounders' lone goal in Portland during Leg 1.
But the league's competition rules for the playoffs feature an important clarification on goals scored during extra time:
If, at the conclusion of the second leg, the series remains tied after taking into account the away goals tiebreaker, two 15-minute extra time periods will be played in their entirety. The away goals tiebreaker shall not apply in these two fifteen 15-minute extra time periods. Should the score remain tied after the extra time periods, both teams will take five kicks from the penalty mark (and continuing into sudden death kicks from the penalty mark if still tied at completion of such five kicks) until a winner has been determined.
That meant that the away goals tiebreaker did not come into play in the case of the header goal scored by Portland's Dairon Asprilla in extra time.
Cameras caught Portland defender Zarek Valentin attempting to explain the reality to his teammates and head coach Giovanni Savarese eventually huddled his team together ahead of the ensuing penalty-kick shootout, which would see the visiting Timbers emerge triumphant all the same.
If they were not aware of the tiebreaker twist, the Timbers did not let on during their postgame comments.
This same rule will also apply in the Conference Championship stage, where the No. 5 seeded Timbers will face either No. 6 Real Salt Lake or No. 1 seed Sporting Kansas City.