Twice before the Seattle Sounders have opened an aggregate-goal series on the road. Twice before, they had fallen into a 3-0 hole. So, it was not a huge surprise that all week the Sounders were talking about the need to manage Sunday's first leg of the Western Conference semifinals against FC Dallas.
There can be no serious complaints as to how well they did that. A 1-1 tie may not have been the literal perfect result -- that probably goes to the New England Revolution's 4-2 dismantling of the Columbus Crew -- but it falls well within the "results we'd happily accept" pile.
The Sounders managed to do exactly what they couldn't in previous years. Not only did they avoid falling apart after surrendering the opening goal, but they were patient enough to wait for chances to present themselves. They were never chasing the equalizer, never throwing guys forward, never getting caught out on the counter. The Sounders were clinical in their defending, keeping multiple bodies behind the ball and only pushing more than three or four forward when there was slower buildup.
That the equalizer came on a free kick was text book and Marco Pappa absolutely atoned for his bone-headed penalty with a perfect ball into the box that glanced ever so slightly off Osvaldo Alonso's head.
Man of the Match
As tempting as it would be to give Alonso this honor, it has to go to Stefan Frei. The Sounders goalkeeper did everything he could to keep a clean sheet, including guessing the right way on Michel's well-taken penalty. Frei commanded his box, was accurate with his passing and even came up with the big save when needed.
And he was definitely needed in the 90th minute when Fabian Castillo broke in and fired a high shot from about 12 yards out. Frei leaped high to push the shot over the crossbar and preserve the tie.
Play of the game
That save Frei made will get the headlines, but let's give DeAndre Yedlin a shout. He was good all night in a solid defensive performance that didn't feature a ton of attacking. That's kinda been how he's playing these days, which is fine, and it's showing that he really is an asset in the back. This play in the 18th minute is a perfect showcase of what he can do (via Armchair Analyst).
Just a great read of the ball as well as some impressive speed to win it. If Yedlin doesn't make that play, you're looking at a tap-in. Just huge.
Quote of the night
"I knew that ball was going upper corner. It went between my legs and I was watching it go upper corner and I saw his hand come out of nowhere." - Zach Scott on Stefan Frei's 90th minute save
Stat of the night
2 - The Sounders have now played seven road playoff games in their history and this is just the second time they've avoided losing. Small sample sizes and all that, it was a disturbing trend and the Sounders broke it. Now they need to follow it up with a win at home. Easy, right?
One more thing
The Sounders have now pulled 10 results from matches in which they have trailed at some point. As nice as that is, it would be a lot cooler if they'd stop conceding the lead. While coming from behind is great, our hearts would be a lot better off by grabbing an early lead and coasting into the Western Conference finals.