2003 Club by Club
After losing in the first round of the 2002 MLS Cup Playoffs, the Earthquakes went through a tumultuous off-season prior to 2003. Eight players left the team through trade or free agency, and the club re-loaded by bringing in nine new faces through the draft and shrewd trades. Starters Joe Cannon, Jimmy Conrad, Wade Barrett and Ariel Graziani would not be back for 2003.
The Quakes acquired Stanford All-American Todd Dunivant, 17-year-old Arturo Alvarez, Pac-10 Player of the Year Roger Levesque, forward Jamil Walker and goalkeeper Josh Saunders in the MLS SuperDraft. The team picked up Los Angeles Galaxy midfielder Brian Mullan in a trade, while also acquiring Craig Waibel (Waiver Draft) and Brian Ching (Supplemental Draft). After an injury to goalkeeper Jon Conway in preseason, Yallop and Kinnear signed Canadian National Team veteran Pat Onstad to man the net.
Yallop's squad had two setbacks prior to kicking off the regular season. First, CSD Municipal of Guatemala eliminated the Quakes from the CONCACAF Champions Cup in the round of 16 5-4 on aggregate. Second, projected starting forward Dwayne De Rosario, who had missed the preseason with a broken foot, suffered a torn lateral collateral ligament in his right knee and was expected to be out for the year.
Despite the difficulties suffered in preseason, the Quakes surprised the League by bursting out of the gate with a 4-0-2 record in their first six games to claim the top spot in the Western Conference. The team, however, continued to deal with adversity as a number of players went down with injuries while Landon Donovan, Richard Mulrooney, Pat Onstad and Arturo Alvarez all missed time due to national team commitments.
Overall in 2003, the Quakes lost over 100 man games to injuries and national team call-ups, but they battled through and held the top spot in the Western Conference for every week but one. Contributions came from every player on the roster. Rookies Todd Dunivant and Jamil Walker each notched eight points, setting the single-season rookie scoring record, while Arturo Alvarez scored a goal in his first career start. Brian Mullan and Brian Ching put together career years with each netting six goals, while Craig Waibel, another former Galaxy player, put up career highs in games played and minutes played.
With strong efforts from everyone, San Jose captured its first-ever regular season Western Conference Championship with 51 points, a new club record. Pat Onstad and Landon Donovan were named to the Best XI team and Onstad was also recognized as the MLS Goalkeeper of the Year. The Canadian international re-wrote the San Jose record book for goalkeepers, setting the club record for shutouts (9), wins (14), catch/punches (117), games played in goal (27) and goals against average (1.04). He also found himself among the league leaders in most goalkeeping categories, placing first in catch/punches (117), first in shutouts (9), second in goals against (1.04) and second in wins (14).
Donovan and Dwayne De Rosario also had two defining moments in 2003 as they notched the first two hat tricks in club history. Donovan got things started by netting the first Quakes hat trick on Sept. 20 against Kansas City and then De Rosario followed the next week with a hat trick of his own against the Dallas Burn. De Rosario scored his first goal of that game 11 seconds in, setting the record for the fastest goal in MLS history.
In the MLS Cup Playoffs, the Quakes started slowly with a 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first game of a two-game aggregate goal series and then they fell behind 2-0 in game just 13 minutes into game two. Facing a 4-0 aggregate goals deficit, Yallop's squad responded with the tenacity and desire shown all season, as they netted four unanswered goals in regulation, capped by Chris Ronér's 90th minute header. Rodrigo Faria, who arrived in a late season trade, scored the overtime winner setting off a celebration at Spartan Stadium. The 5-2 comeback win has since been called the "greatest game in MLS history."
The Quakes continued their run to the championship, coming back just six days after the miracle against the Galaxy to record another memorable victory in the Western Conference Championship. Against the Kansas City Wizards, the Quakes twice recovered from one-goal deficits in the second half to tie the game and send it to overtime to the delight of 16,108 fans at Spartan Stadium. With only three minutes remaining in the overtime period, Landon Donovan sent the crowd into delirium with the game-winning goal off a pass from Ronnie Ekelund, giving San Jose its first-ever Western Conference Championship.
After coming from behind in their previous two playoff matches, the Quakes struck first in the MLS Cup against the Chicago Fire at The Home Depot Center. Ronnie Ekelund blasted a free kick past Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton in the fifth minute, tying the MLS Cup record for the fastest goal in Cup history. Donovan stretched the lead to two goals by finishing off a Jamil Walker through ball in the 38th minute and the Quakes headed into halftime with a two-goal cushion. Onstad was outstanding in the first half with seven saves to hold Chicago scoreless.
The first 15 minutes following intermission saw back-and-forth action as three goals were scored during that interval and a penalty kick was called. DaMarcus Beasley scored for Chicago in the 49th minute, but Richard Mulrooney responded a minute later with a goal to stretch the lead back to two goals at 3-1. An own goal by Chris Ronér made it a 3-2 game and three minutes later Fire forward Damani Ralph was fouled in the penalty box to earn a penalty kick. Ante Razov stepped up to take the penalty and drove it to the lower left corner, but Onstad was there to make a momentum changing save. Donovan put the finishing touches on the Quakes second championship win in three seasons with a goal in the 71st minute from a Dwayne De Rosario cross. The Quakes four goals set and MLS Cup record, while the six combined goals were also a record.
The Earthquakes proved once again that they were the top team in MLS. From 2001-2003, San Jose has been the top team in MLS with two MLS Cup Championships and the best regular season record of 41-25-18.