2001 Club by Club
After several years of frustration, the San Jose club was able to deliver a true season to remember for its fans in 2001, a season that ended with the club capturing its first MLS Cup Championship. It was a roller coaster ride right from the start when a new operating group was introduced in January and it accelerated with the addition of a savvy coach and the signing of the brightest American star the sport has ever seen.
The San Jose Earthquakes experienced a re-birth in 2001 when it was announced that Silicon Valley Sports & Entertainment, the business and marketing arm of the NHL's San Jose Sharks, would become the operator of the club on January 10. In addition, Spartan Stadium was named the site of the 2001 MLS All-Star game the same day, and the stage was set for the Earthquakes historic season.
Just two days later, head coach Lothar Osiander was relieved of his duties. With the days leading to the draft and pre-season training rapidly approaching, Tom Neale was hired as the Earthquakes general manager Feb. 1. Frank Yallop became the fifth head coach in Earthquakes history when he was hired Feb. 2, giving him just two days in command prior to the MLS Superdraft.
Yallop wasted little time turning the Quakes into a contender, acquiring one of the league's best defenders, Jeff Agoos, from D.C. United in exchange for two draft picks and Abdul Thompson Conteh. Yallop then received defender Zak Ibsen in a trade from Los Angeles for a draft pick and acquired high-scoring A-League forward Dwayne De Rosario as an allocated player.
Yallop's busy week was not over, however, as he drafted six players in the Feb. 5 SuperDraft, including Chris Carrieri with the number one pick and defender Eddie Robinson with the 20th selection. Yallop was able to solidify the Quakes midfield when he acquired Manny Lagos from the Tampa Bay Mutiny in exchange for two draft picks.
With a revamped Earthquakes team coming into focus, former Earthquakes player Dominic Kinnear was hired as an assistant coach Feb. 15. The coaching staff was also bolstered by the return of goalkeeper coach Tim Hanley, who had served in the same capacity from 1997-1999. Seven days after Kinnear's hiring, another important piece of the 2001 Earthquakes came together when Ramiro Corrales rejoined his original club, coming over in a trade with the MetroStars.
Perhaps the biggest announcement in Earthquakes history took place on March 29, when it was announced that then 19-year-old superstar Landon Donovan would join the club as an allocated player. Donovan, from Redlands, Calif., was well known in the soccer world, joining the Quakes from German Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen, with whom he signed a contract in 1999.
As the season was set to start with a sense of optimism never before experienced at Spartan Stadium, Yallop and the Quakes made two more major moves, signing Danish star in Ronnie Ekelund and bringing defender Troy Dayak back to the team.
Dayak was an original member of the club in 1996 and appeared in matches in 1997-1998 before succumbing to serious surgery on a bulging disk in his neck that took over two years to fully recover from.
The Quakes got off to a slow start in April before tearing through an undefeated stretch from late April to early July (7-0-5) to establish themselves as one of the best teams in the league.
MLS recognized the Quakes firepower, as a team record six players were named to the MLS West All-Star team in July. A large crowd at Spartan Stadium watched the Quakes put on a mid-season show in the 6-6 game July 28. Ronald Cerritos, Joe Cannon, Troy Dayak, Manny Lagos, Jeff Agoos and Landon Donovan all represented the team, with Donovan taking home the MVP honors after thrilling the crowd with four goals.
Quakes general manager Tom Neale resigned a day before the All-Star game, but the team continued to roll along, finishing with a 13-7-6 record for the best winning percentage (.615) in club history. The team entered the final two games (both against the Los Angeles Galaxy) of the season trailing the Galaxy by two points in the Western Division standings. Tragedy struck the day the team was set to travel to Los Angeles for the first of their final two matches, as the terrorist attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C. put the country on hold. MLS canceled the remaining regular season games and the Quakes finished second in the Western Division and fifth overall in MLS, their best finish in club history. Overall, the Quakes winning percentage improved by .271 from 2000 to 2001, the third highest increase from one season to the next in league history.
The Earthquakes made this playoff appearance count, rolling over the Columbus Crew in the MLS Cup Playoff quarterfinals in two games, 3-1 and 3-0. The Quakes then faced the owners of MLS' best regular-season record, the Miami Fusion in the semifinals.
It was a hard-fought series, with Miami striking first with at 1-0 win in the first game off a goal in the 53rd minute from Preki. San Jose responded in the second game with a resounding 4-0 win at Spartan Stadium, setting the stage for one of the biggest games in Quakes history at Lockhart Stadium in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. on October 17.
The game was a tight, pressure-packed affair that headed into overtime deadlocked at zero. It remained that way until four minutes into the extra session when Richard Mulrooney curled in a corner kick from the right side. Standing on the back post in heavy traffic, Jimmy Conrad knocked the ball in the air toward the goalmouth, where a leaping Dayak powered the ball past Miami goalkeeper Nick Rimando for a 1-0 win and the Earthquakes first-ever trip to the MLS Cup Final.
It was an incredible week to be a member of the Earthquakes as the club prepared for MLS Cup 2001 in Columbus, Ohio against their in-state rival Los Angeles Galaxy. In his first season as head coach, Frank Yallop was recognized for turning the club around from its last place finish in 2000 to the MLS title game with the Coach of The Year Award. First year Quake Jeff Agoos was named MLS Defender of The Year and a member of the MLS Best XI while Troy Dayak won the Ace Comeback Player of the Year Award for his dramatic recovery from neck surgery. As a team, the Earthquakes were recognized with the Fair Play Award.
MLS Cup 2001 would feature a similar Earthquakes sweep. Despite falling behind 1-0 on a Luis Hernandez goal in the 21st minute, San Jose responded with a world-class strike by Donovan in the 43rd minute. The team then won the first championship in club history on a golden goal by Dwayne De Rosario six minutes into overtime. De Rosario was rewarded with the MLS Cup MVP trophy, and the Earthquakes were finally able to call themselves MLS Cup Champions.