CARSON, Calif. – During a remarkable 2012 season in which the San Jose Earthquakes have seized point after point at the last gasp of games, six different players delivered goals in stoppage time.
On Sunday night against the LA Galaxy, they added one more to the “Goonies never say die” lore: Víctor Bernárdez.
The center back’s low driven free kick from 31 yards in the 94th minute may not have been pretty or clean – it deflected off Omar Gonzalez and trickled into the net after dipping beneath a hapless Josh Saunders – but it let the Quakes get out of the Home Depot Center with a huge 1-0 victory in the first leg of the Western Conference Semifinals.
“The important thing is that it went in,” the big Honduran told reporters through an interpreter after the match. “That’s all that really matters. I lined up the free kick to try to score a goal and that was the result we got.”
It wasn’t the first time Bernárdez has delivered off a long free kick. He also drilled a 35-yard bomb in a win over Chivas USA back in early September and then repeated the feat for the Honduran national team in a World Cup qualifying victory over Cuba a week later.
But he’s also capable of sending a dead ball into the stratosphere, as he did later in that Chivas match and, as the Quakes enjoy recounting, in amusing training mishaps. And that’s all part of the fun.
“You know with him, you never exactly know what’s going to happen,” Quakes left back Justin Morrow told MLSsoccer.com. “That’s the excitement that he brings to the game. It’s been really fun playing with him this year.”
The goals are merely a bonus. On Sunday night, Bernárdez also showed why he’s a leading candidate for the MLS Defender of the Year award. In a match where the the game plan was trying to smother the star-studded Galaxy offense, Bernárdez played a key role in snuffing out the forward surges of Robbie Keane, Landon Donovan and second-half sub Edson Buddle.
In fact, the Galaxy didn’t even manage a shot on goal until the 66th minute thanks to the mop-up work of their big Honduran leading what Quakes coach Frank Yallop lauded as a full team defensive effort.
That he got the winning goal to boot was just the icing on the cake on yet another magical moment for a team that has thrived on them.
“He’s been a big part of this thing the whole way,” said forward Alan Gordon. “He plays with his heart and he really played well tonight. I think he was one of the guys early on when they were putting a lot of pressure on who settled things down and was able to get some passes and get us some sort of flow during the game to calm it down.”
But that improbable last-action hero routine is a new one. So does that winning goal give him a place among the Goonies?
“Hey, we’re all the Goonies, man,” Gordon said with an ear-to-ear grin. “They’re all Goonies. Nobody’s left out of it.”