If there's one thing you can definitively say about the Seattle Sounders' season, it's that they've faced their share of hurdles. During a four-month stretch in which the Sounders won just 4 of 16 games, there were ample opportunities for heads to drop and players to turn on one another.
Throughout those dark days, though, goalkeeper Stefan Frei would often speak to the idea that such struggles could be used positively. By his accounting, teams that breeze through the regular season are ill-equipped for the challenges of the playoffs.
It's a theory born from lived experience. During each of the Sounders' four runs to the MLS Cup final, they've experienced significant in-season challenges, usually in the form of extended struggles.
No one is suggesting that it was actually preferable that the Sounders lost Game 2 of their best-of-3 series against FC Dallas on Saturday, but Frei did suggest something positive could come from it.
"It’s maybe good in a way, everything isn’t going to go smooth," he said. "You have to keep your heads held high but get to work and put in a good shift. We have to do what they did to us here."
To Frei's point, it's possible things had started to feel almost easy for the Sounders coming off their 2-0 win in Game 1. The win ran their unbeaten streak to 10 games and they hadn't allowed a goal in over 300 minutes. But their record was perhaps a little deceiving. Up until their last two games, they had mostly been grinding out results.
Getting a reminder that they're going to have work for everything they get in the one game where they had room for error is not the worst thing.
It should also be said that aside from a rather disastrous opening 20 minutes, the Sounders had exactly the kind of response you'd want.
From the point that Jesus Ferreira converted his penalty until a Jackson Ragen turnover led to Jáder Obrian's insurance goal in the 89th minute, the Sounders mostly dominated the match. For much of the time, it was through the play of Jordan Morris, who was repeatedly able to get behind the FC Dallas centerbacks and had an equalizing goal waved off through the thinnest of offside margins. Morris looked as close to his peak performing self as we've seen since his four-goal outburst way back in March.
Morris now has scored in each game, giving him eight career playoff goals and 14 goals across all competitions this season, tying his career high. He's been, by a healthy margin, the most dangerous player in this series.
"We know who they are, we know how they want to play, it’s on us for not coming out with enough fight," Morris said in the postgame press conference. "We dominated a lot of parts of the game but we put ourselves in too big of a hole. I think it was on us, but we didn’t match their intensity. We have to come out flying on Friday."
This is a team with plenty of veterans of big matches, who are perfectly capable of putting in match-winner performances. Dallas' win over the Sounders was hopefully a slap to their face. It was not, however, some new blueprint. The Sounders' problems were mostly self-inflicted, either from unnecessary giveaways or bone-headed defending. Offensively, they generated numerous chances and even without Morris' offside goal were a bit unlucky not to get the equalizer. There's every reason to think that if Morris and Co. maintain their level that they can pick up right where they left off.