Earthquakes midfielder Manny Lagos had a dream night on July 14, 2001, putting forth an individual performance that most soccer players dream of. Not only did he score the Quakes' only two goals of the afternoon at Spartan Stadium, and spectacular ones at that, Lagos did so against his former team, the Tampa Bay Mutiny.
San Jose had been on fire for the entire first half of the 2001 season. Going into the July 14 game, the Quakes held an 8-3-5 record on the year, only losing once in their last 13 straight MLS games. San Jose was also in the midst of a seven-game unbeaten streak at Spartan Stadium, holding strong at home since April 14, 2001. Though they had just broken their 12 game unbeaten streak with a loss in Colorado a week earlier, the first-place Earthquakes thought a match-up with the struggling Tampa Bay Mutiny would be an easy win.
After the first couple of minutes of the Saturday afternoon match, so did Lagos. The Earthquakes midfielder had spent part of 1999 and all of the 2000 season with the Mutiny, where he jumpstarted his career, which he had been hampered by two serious knee injuries. He scored 12 goals and notched 12 assists with Tampa Bay in those two seasons. In his first game against his former club, Lagos wasted no time in making a statement.
Lagos, who had not scored since he put away a pair on May 12 against D.C. United for his first two goals of the year, gave the Quakes the upper hand over the Mutiny in just the fourth minute of the match with a perfectly slotted shot. Dwayne De Rosario started the play when he intercepted the ball from the Tampa Bay defense and carried it towards the goal. The Canadian international then sent a through ball to Lagos, who beat two defenders before ripping a shot past Mutiny goalkeeper Adin Brown to give the Earthquakes an early 1-0 lead.
But the last-place Mutiny would later make life more difficult for the Earthquakes. Despite some great offensive opportunities for the Quakes, the score remained 1-0 well through the second half until Mutiny forward Mamadou Diallo made a run into the San Jose area in the 71st minute. Defender Jimmy Conrad tripped him up in the box, giving Tampa Bay a penalty kick. Diallo took the kick himself and blasted a shot into the net to equalize the game at 1-1 with less than 20 minutes to go.
"We were disappointed that we gave up a tying goal," said defender Troy Dayak that day. The Quakes finished out the match with a team season-high 23 shots, but just could not get the ball into the back of the net to finish off the Mutiny. "We fought hard throughout the game, and we had a number of chances to go ahead by more than one goal."
In stoppage time, it appeared that the first-place San Jose team would have to settle for a tie against the struggling Mutiny. But Lagos refused to fall to the last-place Tampa Bay club, even with only seconds remaining.
"Manny gave me a good ball, and at first I thought about taking the defender on, but I decided to pull it out," said former Earthquakes midfielder Landon Donovan after the 2001 game. "The whole field opened up when I pulled it out, and I saw Manny making a great run into the box, and I knew that I needed to get it to him."
Donovan used a crafty move to scoop the ball over the Mutiny's defensive line and have it drop right at the onrushing and open Lagos. Having run behind the Mutiny's defensive line, Lagos dove and redirected the ball with his head past Brown before colliding with the Mutiny goalkeeper, creating one of the most memorable and spectacular goals in Earthquakes history. Lagos had given San Jose the 2-1 advantage with literally seconds remaining in stoppage time.
The referee blew the whistle as soon as the Mutiny kicked off, ending the game as the Quakes players and fans celebrated the stunning, last-second victory.
"I knew that it was going to be the last play of the game," said former San Jose head coach Frank Yallop about Donovan and Lagos' run. "It was a great play by Landon. He can hurt you if you give him any time or space."
Lagos also commented on the game against his former club. "It was nice to score against my old team, but I was not extra motivated by playing against them. I felt that I played poorly last week in Colorado and I wanted to come out and make up for that. We needed to turn it around after that game, and getting the win today was important for us."
Manny Lagos would go on to finish 2001 with eight goals and eight assists, the best season of his nine-year MLS career with the MetroStars, the Chicago Fire, the Mutiny, the Quakes, and finally the Columbus Crew. His stellar year would help carry the first-place Quakes into the playoffs, and his three postseason goals helped the Quakes capture their first-ever MLS Cup Championship in 2001. After spending three seasons with the Earthquakes from 2001 to 2003, Lagos is currently tied for seventh all-time in goals scored in club history with 14, while also notching 17 assists, good for 10th all-time. He appeared in 79 regular season games with the team.