SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Normally, finding yourself down a goal with less than 15 minutes to play would put a damper on a club. Not for the 2012 version of the San Jose Earthquakes.
For the second consecutive match, the Earthquakes have erased 1-0 deficits with goals in the final minutes, both coming from second-half substitute Alan Gordon – last Sunday vs. Chivas USA and again on Saturday night against the Columbus Crew – to come away with 1-1 ties.
“You can look at it as a negative, but I look at it as a positive,” said Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop. “You can’t buckle once you get scored on. Our guys this year have not buckled when they have been scored on.”
Against Chivas, Gordon found the back of the net in the 88th minute. On Saturday night against the Crew, the nine-year pro waited until the 90th minute to net his third goal of the campaign. Despite waiting until the last possible moments, the Earthquakes feel they can get it done.
Full Highlights: SJ 1, CLB 1
“We have a fight and mentality that we’re never going to give up,” said MLS leading scorer Chris Wondolowski. “It shows a lot about our character.”
Wondolowski has been held in check for the past two matches, leaving San Jose looking for answers from other players. Gordon has been able to take some of the burden off the star striker.
“We’ve talked going into these middle 10 or 11 games that we need to grind points,” said goalkeeper Jon Busch. “Gordo has saved us twice here the last couple of weeks.”
Gordon was on the bench while his mates were dominating for the first 45 minutes. At the half, San Jose was outshooting Columbus 17-3 but trailed 1-0 thanks to six spectacular saves from Andy Gruenebaum and a world-class finish by second-year striker Justin Meram.
“It was heartbreaking [watching from the bench]. The goalie had the game of his life,” said Gordon about the first half. “They put me on to give [the team] a spark.”
Gordon came on for Steven Lenhart in the 60th minute and did just that. San Jose came out of the gates flat in the second half and Gordon brought injected some much-needed intensity into his side, including a caution just six minutes into his night.
With the Earthquakes level of play up a notch, the home side found a flurry of chances in the final 10 minutes. But none went in.
In full-on desperation mode, San Jose continued its push forward. With seconds left in regulation, Gordon took a shot from the penalty spot, hit the crossbar, and then went airborn with an acrobatic scissor kick to bury his own rebound into the back of the net.
Gordon's goal ensured a point for the Earthquakes (7-2-3), who remained in second place in the Western Conference with 24 points with the California Clasico up next on Wednesday in Los Angeles against the Galaxy. But despite the positive feeling after avoiding the loss, Gordon still expects more.
“It’s exciting because it happens at the end of the game, so you feel like you stole a point,” said Gordon. “In reality, these are points that we will look back on and feel that these are games we let get away.”