STANFORD, Calif. – En route to winning the 2012 Supporters’ Shield, the San Jose Earthquakes gained 13 of their franchise-record 66 points with goals scored during second-half stoppage time. Yet they never pulled their Goonies routine in quite such dire circumstances as they faced Saturday night: down a goal and a man, facing a fourth loss in five matches as the playoffs slid further towards the horizon line.
So Shea Salinas’ 92nd-minute equalizer and Alan Gordon’s 93rd-minute game-winner didn’t just send a sellout Stanford Stadium crowd of 50,028 into delirium.
It might have saved the Quakes’ teetering 2013 campaign.
“I don’t think those things are supposed to happen, really,” Quakes interim coach Mark Watson said. “It’s one thing to be down a couple of goals, but to be down a player as well – I mean, it’s a very difficult situation. … So many things happened, I can’t really remember everything. But our guys kept pushing 'til the end. It was amazing to see, but I’m not surprised, because I know the kind of guys we have in the locker room.”
To San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski, a Bay Area native who was indoctrinated into the California Clasico as a young Quakes supporter, this edition “ranks up there right with the best of them,” even in the shadow of last year’s 4-3 comeback – a game in which the Quakes also erased a two-goal Galaxy lead, just as they did Saturday.
“To go down two goals again and to score two so late, it’s a great feeling, especially in front of these fans,” Wondolowski said. “They stayed behind us the whole way. I know it’s easy to maybe turn on us in some moments.”
The Quakes made no bones in their pregame discussion about the importance of the game, which kicked off the second half of San Jose’s MLS slate after a gut-punch 4-7-6 start to the year. If they were going to turn the ship around, there was no one better to do it against than the Galaxy, San Jose’s archrivals and the team that dumped them unceremoniously from the playoffs in the Western Conference semifinals.
“This game was going to be key for us, just because of what the Galaxy signifies to us,” Quakes midfielder Rafael Baca told MLSsoccer.com. “To know that last year, they took us out, this year we’re not doing so well, we knew that this was the game that was going to give us that confidence that we need.”
Now, the Quakes must build off of the momentum with road games in Chicago on Wednesday and New England on Saturday. Thus far in 2013, San Jose are 0-3-1 following victories.
“I know the players are hurting with the start to the season,” Watson said. “It’s been tough. We’ve got a lot of proud guys in there. I know they were hurting from that side of it, and I was so happy to see them persevere tonight and get what is a very big win for us.”