Washington (AFP) – Seattle’s Gustav Svensson headed in the winning goal three minutes into stoppage time Monday to lift the defending champion Sounders over Minnesota United 3-2 and into their fourth MLS Cup final in five seasons.
The Sounders became the first MLS playoff team in 18 years to rally from a two-goal deficit, crushing the visiting Loons to sustain hopes of a third title after 2016 and last year.
“That locker room is a bunch of winners. Those guys are champions,” Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer said. “We’ve gone through so much adversity from 2016 to now. The guys never quit. They find ways to win.”
The Western Conference champion Sounders, who stretched their home playoff win streak to 15 matches, will face the Eastern Conference champion Columbus Crew in Saturday’s MLS Cup final at Columbus, Ohio.
Minnesota’s Emanuel Reynoso scored on a free kick in the 29th minute. The 25-year-old Argentine midfielder lofted a free kick into the penalty area to set up Mali defender Bakaye Dibassy’s header in the 67th minute.
Seattle’s Will Bruin answered in the 75th minute, and Peruvian forward Raul Ruidiaz blasted in the equalizer off an 89th-minute corner kick, setting the stage for the closing heroics.
Uruguayan midfielder Nicolas Lodeiro blasted a corner kick from the right side into the crowded penalty area in the tension-packed dying moments of stoppage time.
It found the head of 33-year-old Swedish reserve forward Svensson, who nodded it inside the far post for the deciding goal, which sparked a celebration among the Sounders but silence from the stands, as spectators were banned as a Covid-19 precaution.
It was Svensson’s first goal since scoring in last year’s playoffs on a corner from Lodeiro.
“They are in there throwing champagne around. But we’ll clean it up,” said Schmetzer. “I’ll give them tomorrow off and then we’ll get right back at it. We’ve got another game to win.”
Schmetzer said Bruin’s entry in the 73rd minute sparked the fightback and that Seattle must improve in order to beat the Crew.
“We’ll have to be able to possess the ball against Columbus, just be a little bit more clinical in our transition moments,” he said.
“We were almost there until Will got there and Raul was really happy when Will was in there.”
Minnesota lost for the first time since August 2019 when scoring first.
Reynoso produced his seventh assist in three post-season matches for Minnesota, setting an MLS one-season playoff assists record in defeat.
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