The San Jose Earthquakes fought back from a late deficit to steal a 2-1 win in stoppage time against Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center on Saturday.
Alejandro Moreno scored on a diving header in second half stoppage time after Danny Califf equalized in the 81st minute. Chivas took a lead early in the second half off a Ramon Ramirez free kick.
It was the fourth and final meeting between the clubs this season, the Earthquakes getting the best of the series, winning two and drawing two. With the win, the Earthquakes added to their already big lead atop the Western Conference standings, now 13 points ahead of the second-place Los Angeles Galaxy with five matches remaining.
Both sides stormed out of the gate. The effort, however, produced more fouls and hard hits than meaningful possessions. The chippy play was a continuation of last week's physical match between the two clubs in San Jose, which the Earthquakes won handily 3-0.
The first clear look at goal for either side didn't come until the half-hour mark, when Juan Francisco Palencia headed a shot from seven yards out that went just wide left of the goal.
Minutes later, the Earthquakes had their first chance when Dwayne De Rosario took a pass from Moreno at the top of the 18-yard box, shook off a Chivas defender, but got under the ball on the shot and sent it over the crossbar.
Moreno failed to convert a clear scoring chance in the 42nd minute. Ronald Cerritos split two Chivas defenders with a low pass that Moreno collected just inside the penalty area. Moreno took a quick, low shot back across the goal but it was a foot wide.
Chivas came out of the halftime break at breakneck speed, their pace paying off in the 52nd minute when Wade Barrett fouled Chivas midfielder Francisco Mendoza 27 yards straight out from goal. Ramirez took the ensuing free kick, bending a perfect shot inside the right corner of the goal, past a diving Pat Onstad.
Ricardo Clark was denied the tying goal in the 62nd minute after Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan made the save of the match. De Rosario started the play, dribbling past two Chivas players near the Chivas end line. The speedy Canadian passed to an onrushing Clark whose low, one-time shot from six yards out was knocked away by a diving Guzan.
In the 72nd minute, Moreno let another quality opportunity get away. A long ball was played into the Chivas box and defender Douglas Sequiera twisted to side foot it away. His clearance attempt, however, landed squarely at the feet of Moreno at the top of the area, but after trapping the ball he struck a hard shot that went just left of the goal.
Two minutes later, Brian Ching almost netted the equalizer. Ching, who entered the match in the 70th minute, had a clear look at goal from 10 yards out and shot right, yet Guzan again was there to make the save.
The Earthquakes pulled even in the 81st minute, Califf heading in a pass from Eddie Robinson after a De Rosario corner kick. Robinson headed the ball back across the goal where Califf was completely unmarked.
Califf, however, paid the price for the goal. As the defender leaped to head the ball a yard from goal, Chivas USA's Ezra Hendrickson came in late and tried to kick the ball away but instead struck Califf on the side of the head with his foot. Califf laid inside the Chivas goal after the score holding his head, though he re-entered the match minutes later.
Onstad kept the score even, when three minutes from time, he dove left and punched a powerful Juan Pablo Garcia shot from outside the area away with one hand.
Then, two minutes into stoppage time, Moreno scored the winning goal. Brian Mullan sent a cross into the Venezuelan whose free header from inside the area beat Guzan for his eighth goal on the year.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Alejandro Moreno (San Jose Earthquakes)
Danny Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.