The Earthquakes and the Colorado Rapids have always been relatively evenly matched teams over the history of MLS. At the end of the 2004 season, the Quakes and Rapids all-time series record remained deadlocked at 16-16-4, with San Jose scoring 56 all-time goals to Colorado's 55. But for some reason, the Quakes always seem to dominate the Rapids around the week of May 30.
The Earthquakes have faced the Rapids during the week of May 30 four different times since 1996, posting a 3-0-1 unbeaten record in that stretch. The Quakes defeated the Rapids 4-3 on June 3, 1999, 4-2 on June 3, 2000, and 2-1 on June 2, 2001 and tied them 1-1 on May 30, 2001. But the scores alone do not justify the brilliance of the two June 3 wins at Spartan Stadium.
The Quakes pulled off amazing consecutive comeback wins on June 3 over the Rapids in both 1999 and 2000. San Jose overcame a 3-1 deficit in 1999 to ultimately win 4-3, and scored four second-half goals in 2000 for the 4-2 win.
On June 3, 1999, the Colorado Rapids traveled to Spartan Stadium to visit the Clash for a Thursday night match-up. Midfielder Eddie Lewis helped the Clash jump out to an early lead with a goal in the eighth minute. But the Clash were not able to hold on to the lead for long, as Ross Paule, Paul Bravo, and Anders Limpar managed to score three consecutive goals to give the Rapids a 3-1 lead by the 69th minute of the match.
The two-goal deficit didn't keep the Clash down for long. Midfielder Jeff Baicher put the Clash back in the game in the 73rd minute. Dario Brose passed a free kick from the middle of the field to Baicher at the top of the goal box. Amongst a number of defenders, Baicher turned and right footed a laser of a shot that burned into the left side of the net.
After Rapids star Bravo left the match with a nagging leg injury, the Clash took the opportunity to crash the Colorado goal once again. Four minutes after Baicher's goal, the Lewis chased down a deflected ball in the deep left corner of the field and picked out forward Ronald Cerritos waiting in the goal box. Lewis sent a pinpoint cross to Cerritos, who lunged forward in front of the defenders to head the ball past a diving Colorado goalkeeper to tie the game in the 77th minute.
"Oh, I remember that one!" said Cerritos. "[Coach] Brian Quinn told me he wanted to sub me because I was injured. But I said, 'Wait! Wait for the corner.' The corner comes, I put the header in, and I said, 'OK, You can change me now!'"
The Clash could have settled for a tie after coming back from a 3-1 deficit. But instead, the team fought back for just one more goal. In the 80th minute, Lewis was fouled in the left corner of the field near the endline. Baicher crossed the free kick past the far right post, where Adam Frye took the ball. Frye touched the settled ball on the ground to an unmarked Mauricio Wright just a few feet away from the goal line. The Clash defender scooped the ball into the back of the net as the 6,824 fans at Spartan Stadium witnessed one of the greatest Clash comebacks in history.
"The best thing about that game was, first of all, that we won at home," said the veteran Cerritos. "We were losing that game at first 3-1, and that's hard, especially on a small field. But everyone was fighting to win and that's the most important thing. Everybody was on the same page to try to come back at that time, and we did. We had some good opportunities to score from the first minute but we didn't, but in the end we tried to find a way to tie the game and we did. I was lucky to be a part of that game and to score that goal."
Coincidentally, San Jose once again met with the Colorado Rapids at Spartan Stadium on June 3 of the next year, this time clad in their new Earthquakes blue.
"Oh yeah, I remember all that," said then-Quakes defender John Doyle. "The game against Colorado in 2000 was one of the few exciting moments we had that season. It was a difficult season. We went down 2-0 to Colorado and Paul Bravo, who came back to haunt us every time he came to San Jose, scored two fortunate goals in the first half. Then we came out in the second half and [Coach] Lothar Osiander changed things around a little bit. It was one of the few times I got to play forward and hang around in the box."
Doyle tried to give the Quakes momentum to come back in the game with a goal in the 57th minute. With the score still standing at 2-1, the Quakes seemed to be running out of chances as the clock ticked closer and closer to the final minute.
But in the 88th minute, Abdul Thompson Conteh headed in a corner kick from Richard Mulrooney that deflected off Jimmy Conrad in the box. The Quakes moved so quickly that Rapids goalkeeper Adin Brown was still guarding the near post by the time Conteh's shot fired into the left corner of the net.
The fans went crazy when the Quakes tied the game, but had no idea what was in store for them next. Just two minutes later, San Jose capitalized on an opportunity in the box to take the lead. Doyle, with his back to the net, flicked the ball off-balance to left side of the goal, where he found a wide open Dario Brose. The second-half substitute shot and scored from just six yards away from the endline in the 90th minute, setting off a wild celebration at Spartan.
The Quakes came back for one more goal in stoppage time. San Jose denied a Colorado offensive attack, intercepted the ball, and carried it into empty Rapids territory. Khodadad Azizi sprinted to the goal to face the goalkeeper one-on-one. Azizi touched the ball out of Brown's reach and slammed a right-footed shot into the net to finalize the score at 4-2.
"Azizi was on a breakaway, so the crowd was already standing up when he scored," remembered Doyle. "It was a great day."
"We like to make it exciting for the spectators and for ourselves," said former Quakes coach Osiander after the game against the Rapids. "We played a hell of a lot better in the second half. We really battled in the end. I think Colorado ran out of steam and we found our rhythm. We found the gaps."
The two June 3 comeback wins for San Jose over the Rapids in 1999 and 2000 will always remain unforgettable moments in Quakes history, as will the Quakes' great historical track record against Colorado around the week of May 30. Even though they did not meet in early June between 2002 and 2004, the Earthquakes recent 1-0 shutout win over Colorado on May 25, 2005 makes it look like the Quakes are on that roll again.