In Monday night’s Western Conference final at Lumen Field, the Seattle Sounders trailed Minnesota United 2-0 with just over 15 minutes to play in regulation. The Loons were minutes away from eliminating the defending champions and advancing to their first MLS Cup.
Those defending champions didn’t let the two-goal deficit break them though, and instead of folding the Sounders showed off their championship spirit. Sparked by the second-half introduction of Will Bruin and Gustav Svensson, the Sounders poured in three goals in 18 minutes for a stunning 3-2 victory.
The Sounders, MLS Cup champions in both 2016 and 2019, are returning to MLS Cup for the fourth time in five seasons, taking on the Columbus Crew at Mapfre Stadium on Saturday night.
Svensson delivered the game-winning goal in the 93rd minute, heading a Nicolas Lodeiro corner kick past goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair. Referee Ismail Elfath blew the final whistle seconds later.
The Loons looked likely to advance for much of the night. Emanuel Reynoso gave the visitors a 1-0 lead in the 29th minute. His free kick from just outside the penalty area skimmed over the Sounders defense before curling past Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei and ricocheting off the post for the 1-0 lead.
Bakaye Dibassy headed a Reynoso free kick past Frei in the 67th minute, putting the defending champions in a 2-0 hole with less than 25 minutes to play.
Bruin opened the scoring for the Sounders in the 75th minute, just minutes after entering the match. The veteran forward pounced on a deflected Raul Ruidiaz shot, besting St. Clair from just outside the penalty spot.
With the Loons visibly reeling, Raul Ruidiaz equalized for the Sounders in the 89th minute, stepping into a deflected corner kick at the edge of the 6-yard box and sending a shot past St. Clair to erase Minnesota United’s lead and give the Sounders all the momentum.
That surge culminated in Svensson’s winner, and an opportunity for the Sounders to defend their title.
MAN OF THE MATCH
Will Bruin. All night long the Sounders looked a little sloppy in attack. Movement after movement finished with an errant pass, or with an extra touch costing possession. Bruin ignited the team both with his goal and his boundless energy.
MOMENT OF THE MATCH
Shane O’Neill’s 27th-minute yellow card could have easily been red for a studs up tackle at the edge of the penalty area. Reynoso scored on the ensuing free kick, and the Sounders probably don’t rally down a man.
MATCH TO FORGET
Michael Boxall will feel unlucky in playing a role in Seattle’s first two goals, with the Bruin goal starting with a deflection off him, and the Ruidiaz goal coming after he was beaten to a header on a corner kick.