This week in Quakes history: May 12, 1996
and capacities. On May 12, 1996, when the rival Los Angeles Galaxy ventured to Northern California, 31,728 diehard fans crammed into Spartan Stadium to cheer on the Clash, setting an all-time Spartan Stadium attendance record for any sport.
A sea of white Clash jerseys packed into the stands of Spartan Stadium to watch the third-place San Jose side threaten the first-place Galaxy. Fans squeezed into not only every available seat, but also into the walkways of the stadium. The player's entrance to the field was also filled with standing fans for the entire length of the match.
Patrick Bernal, a season-ticket holder for every San Jose soccer club (including NASL, WSA and APSL) since 1975, says he will never forget the game, especially after waiting for 45 minutes to get out of the parking lot afterwards.
"We were sitting below the announcers booth where we always do, and the size of the crowd was just amazing," remembered Bernal. "We looked backward over our heads and we could see that the whole upper deck was full. I had never seen Spartan Stadium so packed, even on opening day for San Jose State football games."
After listening to "We Will Rock You" during warm-ups, the 31,728 fans were pumped up and ready to watch some soccer action. The Clash got Spartan Stadium riled up in just the seventh minute of the match. Missael Espinoza took a corner kick from the right side that found Ramiro Corrales, who headed the ball towards the goal. After deflecting off the 'keeper, the ball bounced into the back of the net and the stands erupted in celebration. However, due to the roar of the crowd, the audience did not hear the referee call a foul against San Jose for pushing, denying the Clash the goal.
The Galaxy tried to put a damper on the Spartan Stadium crowd when they scored just one minute later. After the Los Angeles goal, the television announcers commented that the Galaxy was trying "to take the crowd out of the match," but they did not succeed. The mass of fans did not give up on their San Jose team until the Clash finally came through with a goal in the 75th minute off the foot of red-hot forward Paul Bravo, who had scored in the previous two games.
Henry Gutierrez sent a long ball down the right side of the field, ending up at Bravo's foot. The Clash forward took the ball under control and ripped a right-footed shot past Los Angeles goalkeeper Jorge Campos. As the powerful shot hit the back of the net, the crowd leapt to their feet with their arms in the air while confetti showered onto the stands and the field. Bravo celebrated by running to the front row of the crowd and hugging Clash supporters in the stands.
The Galaxy tried to silence the Clash and their supporters once and for all with a game-winning goal in the 82nd minute. But Spartan Stadium, despite continued to buzz with support for their team even when they were down a goal. Every Clash throw-in or touch on the ball was echoed by chants of "San Jose, San Jose," horns blowing, and cheering straight through until the final whistle blew.
"It's really neat to see Spartan Stadium when it's so crowded because the place just starts to rock," said Bernal. "It's a pain getting your beer at halftime, but that's a price worth paying to have a fun crowd and a lot of support for your team."
In 1997, the Clash management decided to establish 26,000 as the new spectator limit for MLS games at Spartan Stadium to make the venue more comfortable for the fans. With the new Spartan Stadium capacity limits of 26,514 spectators for MLS games, the record crowd of 31,728 set on May 12, 1996, will likely never be broken. However, high numbers of Quake fans have continued to pack Spartan Stadium.
The largest attendance since the new capacity was set in 1997 on Sept. 25, 2004, when an overflow crowd of 27,030 San Jose fans watched the Earthquakes play the Los Angeles Galaxy once again, this time to a 0-0 draw. Fans also packed into Spartan Stadium on Sept. 1, 2000, with 26,853 supporters cheering the Earthquakes on to a 3-0 win over the Columbus Crew, as well as on Sept. 21, 2002, when 26,229 watched the Quakes fall to the Galaxy 1-0.
Attendance records or not, the fans at Spartan Stadium have proven loyal to both the San Jose Clash and Earthquakes over the last decade. And their dedication to soccer has not gone unnoticed.
"So many great fans have been watching us play over the years at Spartan Stadium," said Earthquakes defender Troy Dayak, the sole remaining original Clash member on the Earthquakes. "Every time I walk onto the field, I hear the same people year in and year out. When I retire at the end of this season, that's what I'll miss most about playing soccer: our fans."