Up a man for Sunday's final 35-plus minutes, Minnesota United nonetheless lost an early lead, the game and three crucial points in a 3-1 loss to Colorado at Allianz Field.
When the sun still hadn't set, the Loons clung to the seventh and final playoff spot in the West with six games left to play. They did so after an afternoon coach Adrian Heath called "hugely disappointed" and generous to their conference rivals, including third-place Colorado.
"It has been a great result for all the teams in and around us and below us," Heath said. "It gives them a little bit of belief now. You look at the way we all have to play each other. We have to go to Vancouver, then L.A. [Galaxy]. These games are going to be huge for us."
The Loons led 1-0 after only eight minutes Sunday on starting striker Adrien Hunou's left-footed, 16-yard strike through two pairs of defenders' legs.
It was the only goal they'd score, despite many other opportunities to get the game's all-important second or third goal. Hunou, Franco Fragapane, Ethan Finlay and Emanuel Reynoso all had their chances, and then some.
Instead, the Rapids scored three times unanswered within 20 second-half minutes. All of them came after Colorado defender Danny Wilson was ejected because of a deemed red-card tackle of Hunou from behind in the 56th minute that video review upheld.
Wilson was gone from the game just like Loons star Reynoso the week before in Dallas, except the Loons filed and won an appeal that rescinded the penalty.
So Reynoso played on, delivering a pass that created Hunou's early goal and several others. His strike late in the game rose just over the crossbar.
Even without Wilson, Colorado pressed forward against a Loons team that now has played three times this season with a one-man advantage and hasn't won one once.
"I don't want to say it's panic because I don't think that's what it is," Finlay said. "We need to continue doing what we were doing for the first 55, 60 minutes. At times we forced it and maybe get too direct and we expose ourselves, which is what happened today."
Despite playing shorthanded, the Rapids penetrated a Minnesota defense that surrendered young star Cole Bassett's 73rd-minute penalty kick and midfielder Michael Barrios' tap-in past Loons keeper Tyler Miller in the 84th minute.
Barrios created Bassett's penalty kick by drawing a tripping penalty from Miller in the box, leading to the tying goal. Then Barrios scored the winner after the Rapids played a ball over a Loons defense missing four players gone to international duty, including starting defenders Michael Boxall and Romain Metanire.
Colorado scored its third and final goal into an open net in injury time after the Loons, including their keeper, pushed way forward seeking a tying goal.
Afterward, Heath was asked why his team hasn't capitalized on a man advantage this season.
"Because we changed the way we play," Heath said. "We stopped trying to play through the field, side to side, make the opposition [move]. We've gone long and straight … You have to move the ball and move it quickly, side to side. We got desperate and played desperate instead of playing our football."
Finlay still calls himself optimistic about his team, which is eight points behind fourth-place Portland and a first-round home playoff game.
"I still feel good about our chances," Finlay said. "Anything can happen. This team is very capable of going on a run. That being said, if we have performances like today, we probably won't be in the playoffs, right? That's a reality we're all going to have to face.
"Coming in seventh place is not our goal. It is to have a home playoff game and that's still a possibility, especially with the teams we have ahead of us."