SJ dig deep again, but acknowledge mojo could run out
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – A sell-out crowd of 10,744 at Buck Shaw Stadium roared deliriously Saturday night when Steven Lenhart delivered a 95th-minute goal to give the San Jose Earthquakes a 3-3 tie against FC Dallas.
But after the cheering stopped, in a somewhat subdued Quakes locker room, you could hear the worry permeating the voice of San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
“It keeps happening, but we can’t keep putting ourselves in these holes,” Busch said. “Eventually, luck runs out.”
So far, of course, San Jose’s last-game heroics seem to have no end. With Lenhart’s pair of late equalizers against Dallas, the Quakes now have 12 game-tying or winning goals in the 82nd minute or later this year; San Jose’s nine second-half stoppage-time scores are an MLS record.
And many of the Quakes no longer think of such theatrics as luck, but instead as a belief, or an expectation – which might be exactly why Busch is concerned, even as San Jose hold onto a three-point lead over Sporting Kansas City in the Supporters’ Shield race with three matches remaining.
“We’re not surprised,” said Quakes forward Alan Gordon, who assisted Lenhart on both of his goals. “We expect to score. Definitely. After they scored their third goal [through Matt Hedges in the 88th minute], Lenny looked at me and said, ‘We’re going to get this.’ And I was right there with him. There was not one feeling of doubt in me. ...
“It’s a will. It’s a will to dig deep, and reach where the other team doesn’t want to reach. They thought the game was over, and it was far from over.”
It’s a mindset that’s spawned a whole raft of storylines – most notably the Quakes’ alternate persona as MLS’ “Goonies” – even while forcing late-game rewrites.
“If we don’t score, we’re going to go down swinging, that’s for sure,” Chris Wondolowski said. “We’re going to go down fighting to the end, and I think that’s one of the reasons we have scored those, is that we don’t give up and we have the fight.”
With Lenhart reaching 10 goals, the Quakes are the first MLS team to have three double-digit scorers in the same season since Chris Carrieri, Mark Chung and Chris Henderson netted 11 each for the 2002 Colorado Rapids, according to the Elias Sports Bureau.
On the other hand, only one MLS Cup finalist in the last six years – New England in 2007 – allowed goals at the same rate as San Jose (1.26 per match) have done to this point. And every time the Quakes fall behind, it’s another chance for fate to come crashing down on them. That almost happened Saturday when Fabián Castillo bore down on a 92nd-minute breakaway, only to be turned aside by the charging Busch.
“When we get three goals at home, we should be winning those games,” Busch said. “Not to put a negative into it – we’ll definitely take the point – but I don’t know how many more times we can go to the well.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.