At this point, maybe the San Jose Earthquakes should just send the opening kickoff rocketing into their own net.
Although the Quakes maintained Wednesday that they don’t want to concede the first goal to the opposition, San Jose showed yet again that they can thrive in such cases, even with time running out. After trailing for more than an hour, the they struck for goals in the 83rd and 92nd minutes to beat the Colorado Rapids 2-1.
San Jose (9-3-3) moved to within two points of league-leading Real Salt Lake, with a top-of-the-table clash at Rio Tinto Stadium looming on Saturday.
HIGHLIGHTS: COL 1, SJ 2
“We just keep doing it game in and game out,” substitute forward Alan Gordon said on the Quakes’ TV broadcast immediately after the match. “I don’t think it’s a mistake.”
Gordon didn’t get credit for another critical goal – he had a game-winner and two game-tying scores in the dying moments during a three-game, 10-day stretch last month – but he forced the action that led to Hunter Freeman’s own goal and elicited a foul call in the 90th minute that set up Chris Wondolowski’s injury-time game-winner from the penalty spot.
“We kept going until the end, which we’ve done all year,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “I said to the guys, ‘It doesn’t matter if you score in the first minute or the last minute. The game’s 90 minutes. You’ve got to make sure you’re as good in the first as you are in the last.'”
To reach that point, the Quakes need to improve their play in the early stages of games. San Jose found themselves down 1-0 at the interval for a fifth consecutive regular-season match, and even though they have a league-high 12 goals after the 76th minute and a 4-2-3 record (also a league best) when conceding the first goal, Gordon knows that’s a dangerous way to make a long-term living.
“We want to get the first goal and keep the lead, but that’s not the way the games have been going,” Gordon told MLSsoccer.com by phone from the Quakes locker room at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. “We’ve been doing well in the situations that we’ve been put into and shown a lot of character, but that’s not a habit we want to get into. We want to start playing a little bit better from the get-go and get on the front foot for a change.”
Even so, this was an extremely impressive result for San Jose, wo hadn’t won in Colorado since April 19, 2008. In six previous home matches this season, the Rapids outscored their visitors 14-5 en route to a 4-1-1 record.
All of that – plus some superlative first-half work by Colorado goalkeeper Matt Pickens – fell by the wayside when Gordon ran onto a lead pass from Simon Dawkins and tried to round Pickens. Replays couldn't show conclusively how much contact there was between Pickens' hand and Gordon's shoe.
What was crystal clear: The sight of Wondolowski pumping home his 12th goal of the season to retake sole possession of top spot on the league's scoring charts.
“We’ve got competitors and guys that really want to win, and that’s the difference,” Gordon said. “It comes down to heart at the end and people who are willing to make the extra run and battle the extra bit.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.