One would be hard-pressed to try and accurately articulate the Seattle Sounders’ come-from-behind 3-2 win over Minnesota United on Monday night in the Western Conference Final, but let Head Coach Brian Schmetzer answer it succinctly.
“In our Sounders history, this is going to go down as one of the best games ever,” said Schmetzer. “We won a final, we won an MLS Cup last year, but this has to rank right up there. This was a great win.”
The Sounders on Monday night were on the precipice of losing their first Audi MLS Cup Playoffs home match since 2014 after winning an MLS-record 14 straight games. Minnesota had just taken a 2-0 lead in the 67th minute, cruelly just moments after a Jordan Morris shot that would have drawn the match level rattled off the post. The Loons were flirting with what was supposed to be a fairy-tale ending and keeping their MLS Cup dream alive in just their fourth year as an MLS franchise.
But the Sounders, as they have done time after time after time, just simply refused to be beaten. At some point late in the second half, despite being two goals down, they made up their mind that they were going to win, and nothing was going to prevent that from happening.
“Those guys in the locker room never say quit,” said Schmetzer. “I don’t know how to say it differently: That’s a locker room full of championship players…As a soccer fan, when I look back on this in 10 years, that was an unbelievable performance. I don’t know how we did it.”
Will Bruin had much to do with it. The veteran forward came on as a 73rd-minute substitute. Two minutes later, he scored his ninth career MLS postseason goal to halve the deficit and begin the offensive onslaught in earnest.
“Will brought exactly what this game needed,” said Schmetzer, whose tactical substitutions in the second half paid dividends. Bruin’s presence up front opened more room for Raúl Ruidíaz to operate while also keeping Minnesota’s center backs preoccupied and less focused on Nicolás Lodeiro and Morris.
Then Gustav Svensson, who entered the match in the 77th minute after missing the previous three games, delivered the death knell in the third minute of stoppage time on a header from a Lodeiro corner kick.
“You could kind of feel the momentum tilting a little bit,” said Bruin about his opening goal. “We knew if we got one, we were going to get two, and Gustav capped it off with a third…I don’t know if guys wanted to play extra time, I think we wanted to win it in regulation.”
Added Schmetzer: “Credit to those guys for being ready to come in, make a difference, play for their teammates. Those are two of the [humblest] guys we’ve got. Will and Gustav two are of the [humblest] professionals I’ve worked with.”
The Sounders are comprised of grizzled MLS veterans, who year in and year out are competing for trophies. Constantly playing in high-stake matches forces you to approach and manage matches differently. No one on the Sounders was impatient or worried.
“Experience helps a lot,” said Svensson. “Experience combined with skills…and the know-how to win these games even if you’re down 2-0. If you’ve been in these situations before, you know you can turn around these kinds of games. But you have to have the skills as well. You have to have the individual quality and the team quality.”
Added Bruin: “We have a very, very talented team. We have a very, very experienced team too. That’s a good combination. We go down 2-0. Some teams, maybe they just say, ‘Ah, s---, it’s over, we’re not going to come back, it’s too hard, the circumstances.’ But you can feel in this squad, guys are like, ‘it’s do-or-die time now.’ Everybody stepped up a little bit, everybody turned on a little more.”
The Sounders know that Monday’s result will be for naught if they don’t get the job done in MLS Cup on Saturday when they visit Columbus Crew SC (5 p.m. PT; FOX, 950 KJR AM, El Rey 1360 AM). While the players and coaches will soak it in now, Seattle will head right back to the drawing board for the final time in 2020, hoping to cap a challenging year, on and off the field, with its third MLS Cup title in five seasons.
“The guys know it’s a great feeling now, but guys know there’s still a lot of work to do because we go on the road to Columbus for another game for the ultimate trophy,” said Bruin. “We’ve got a veteran team. We’ve got guys who know the job’s not done.”