Victor Bernardez's persistence completes another dramatic comeback draw for San Jose Earthquakes
SANTA CLARA, Calif. – When Víctor Bernárdez lined up a 72nd-minute free kick from 19 yards out and hammered the ball some 12 rows deep into section 108 of Buck Shaw Stadium, the odds of the San Jose Earthquakes center back notching a brace Saturday night seemed pretty much non-existent.
Faster than you could translate “Goonies never say die” into Spanish, Bernárdez made sure his gaffe was just a footnote to arguably his most clutch performance since joining the Quakes in 2012.
The 31-year-old Honduran international skimmed in a free header off a 75th-minute corner kick, then added another goal with a dagger of a shot from 8 yards out in the 95th to secure a 3-3 tie against Real Salt Lake in the Quakes’ regular-season opener.
¡Ánimo! los Goonies! indeed.
Bernárdez’s equalizer, which was followed seconds later by the final whistle, capped a furious finish in which San Jose cracked open an RSL team which had tried desperately to preserve a 3-1 halftime lead. It came after Shaun Francis recycled a poorly struck corner from Shea Salinas, pumping a deep cross to give Alan Gordon a chance at outjumping Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando. Bernárdez used one touch outside RSL’s 6-yard box to settle the ball, and one more to lash it home.
“I anticipated the ball bouncing my direction, so I adjusted my body to play the deflection,” Bernárdez said through a team interpreter. “I am just blessed to have been put in a position today to score two goals which my team absolutely needed to get a tie at home.”
Bernárdez, who now has five regular-season MLS goals – plus one in the 2012 playoffs – was the only member of San Jose’s preferred backline in the starting XI against RSL. Left back Jordan Stewart, center back Clarence Goodson and right back options Brandon Barklage and Andreas Görlitz were all held out due to injury, which led to Bernárdez marshaling a quartet that included Francis on the left, Jason Hernandez in the middle and winger-by-trade Cordell Cato at right back.
“He’s always a stud,” Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch said. “And to add two goals tonight – I was going to give him a little grief about his free kick, but I think I’ll leave that be now that he’s got two goals and got us a point.”
Bernárdez tried to light a fire under the Quakes late in the first half, after RSL had come back from Chris Wondolowski's early strike with goals from Kyle Beckerman and Joao Plata. Coming up with an interception in his third, Bernárdez lugged the ball forward, instigating a San Jose attack which eventually led to him sliding a nice ball to Steven Lenhart, who pulled his shot just wide of the near post from 17 yards.
“He’s someone that’s very good in the attacking phase of the game, whether it’s free kicks from distance or whether it’s attacking corners,” Quakes coach Mark Watson said. “He’s a big, powerful guy and gets his head on the ball. He was instrumental in getting us back in the game and ultimately getting points out of the game.”