It’s the watching that gnaws at a player.

Sounders midfielder Gustav Svensson has been on the sideline for a month. His last Major League Soccer match had been Nov. 4, leaving when called up to play for Sweden’s national team. But he tested positive for COVID-19 when he returned, therefore needing to self-isolate to make certain he remained asymptomatic.

Seattle had to move on without its key defender, advancing to the Western Conference final Monday night against Minnesota. It was the first match that Svensson was available for selection, but, again, he was on the bench at Lumen Field.

As his club slipped to a two-goal deficit in the 67th minute, Svensson could barely contain himself. Sounders coach Brian Schmetzer substituted Svensson in the match in the 77th minute, and in stoppage time Svensson nailed the winning goal to send the Sounders back to the MLS Cup for the fourth time in the past five seasons with a 3-2 victory.

“I didn’t want this year to end with me just on the sideline, watching from the TV,” said Svensson, who tested positive after rejoining the Sounders last month. “When you watch from the side and you’re not able to train, you’re not able to play, you build up something inside of you — a mental strength, and you just want to come back and show how happy you are to play games again.”

The Sounders have one more.

Seattle will travel to play the Columbus Crew SC on Saturday at 5 p.m. Pacific time for the MLS championship. The match will be played in Ohio with a socially distanced crowd in attendance. The Crew defeated the New England Revolution for the Eastern Conference title Sunday at MAPRE Stadium.

“I wish that our fans were in the building to witness such a great Sounders victory,” Schmetzer said of conference title game Monday.


Fans haven’t been allowed at Lumen Field since March due to the coronavirus pandemic.

“That was something that we will talk about for many, many, many years to come as part of the history of our club,” Schmetzer continued. “That was such a good performance by everyone on the team.”

The Sounders, seeded second in the West, were almost another league heavyweight losing to an up-and-coming club. Fourth-seeded Minnesota entered with a 10-match unbeaten streak, looking to advance to its first MLS Cup in the club’s four-year history.

Minnesota seemingly had an edge in former Sounders captain Ozzie Alonso leading the Loons with a big-time signing in Emanuel Reynoso — an Argentine midfielder who entered the match with six postseason assists in his MLS debut season.

But the Loons never have defeated the Sounders, and their lack of overall experience hurt them.

Sounders center back Shane O’Neill was shown a yellow card in the 27th minute for sliding cleats up to defend a play, setting up Reynoso’s opening score. Dubbed “Bebelo,” the 25-year-old took the shot with the ease of a penalty kick. Sounders keeper Stefan Frei dived to his left for the save, the ball slicing between his gloves and the near post.


In the 67th minute, Reynoso had a deep free kick that defender Bakaye Dibassy connected with on a header to score.

Schmetzer began to make his substitutions three minutes later. In the 73rd minute, he put in forward Will Bruin. The veteran quickly created a chance off a rebound from a Raul Ruidiaz attempt, scoring in the 75th minute.

“At halftime we said they look tired,” Bruin said of the Loons. “We had that feeling that if we got the first one, maybe we’d see their heads go down a little bit. That was the case. We got on top of them, and you could see that they were trying to find outlets and get out of our pressure. And they couldn’t really get out.”

As time continued to drain, the Sounders grew more physical and crafty. Ruidiaz sliced the equalizer in the goal in the 89th minute. Nico Lodeiro provided the service on a corner kick, Ruidiaz playing behind the Minnesota’s defense in the box, collecting a deflection to knock it past keeper Dayne St. Clair.

Referee Ismail Elfath announced about four minutes of stoppage time would be added to the match before heading to overtime. Svensson, Bruin and Schmetzer said everyone was confident the match would be won in regulation.

And it was. Svensson heading home Lodeiro’s corner kick.

“I feel sorry for Minnesota,” Svensson said. “It’s a terrible way to lose a game. They played a good game. Maybe it’s because of the tight schedule or other things, but I feel sorry for them. I’m sure they’re very sad right now, because it’s a bad way to lose.”