Needing a draw to earn the chance to defend their Major League Soccer title, the San Jose Earthquakes grabbed a valuable 2-2 tie against the Dallas Burn and qualified for the MLS Cup Playoffs on Saturday night at the Cotton Bowl.
Brian Ching and Ramiro Corrales scored two minutes apart in the first half for the Earthquakes after Eddie Johnson gave the Burn an early lead, and then Oscar Pareja scored a second-half equalizer but it wasn't enough to keep the Burn alive -- literally. Next year, the Burn will disappear and be known as FC Dallas, when they move into their new home in Frisco.
From the outset, the game was highlighted by tough, tight, physical marking. Early on, Burn defender Cory Gibbs fouled Ching and served notice of the battle to come. But Pareja had his own follower in Ramiro Corrales, who did his best to make sure the Colombian wouldn't see the ball in the midfield.
But the visitors put together a wonderful combination in reply on 17 minutes, seven players combining before Waibel put a shot on goal that was turned aside.
Earthquakes star Landon Donovan struggled to get free from the asphyxiating coverage of Simo Valakari, then in the 23th minute Pareja committed a foul on Donovan, earning the first yellow card of the night.
The San Jose equalizer came in the 34th minute, on a precise counterattack from midfield, as Richard Mulrooney ran down a ball on the right side. He found Donovan, who eluded his marker and sent a lofted ball into the area where Ching came on from behind, heading home into the center of the goal past Jeff Cassar.
With the score back to level, the Earthquakes took full control of the game, flooding forward with pace toward the Dallas goal. Then just two minutes later they took the lead in nearly identical circumstances.
Gibbs headed away a clearance, but Mulrooney again claimed it and sent in a high ball from the right which found Corrales, and his header put the Earthquakes ahead.
In the second half, the home side began to press forward more, needing two goals if they were going to qualify for the postseason. The Earthquakes tightened their marking and forced the Burn into a number of misplaced passes.
The Burn pulled level in the 62nd minute, the pressure finally paying off. Valakari latched onto a rebound in the heart of the San Jose penalty area and flipped a high ball to Kreis, who headed to Pareja, and he knocked the ball past Onstad to level the score.
Now just a goal away from a postseason return, the Burn threw everything forward in an attempt to get a winner, but the well-organized Earthquakes defense stood firm.
Substitute Eric Quill, after coming on for Brad Davis, came close to beating Onstad, but even the additions of Toni Nhleko and Bobby Rhine by Burn coach Colin Clarke couldn't change his team's fortunes.
San Jose now plays host to the Kansas City Wizards in the first leg of their Western Conference semifinal series next weekend, while the Burn miss out on the postseason for the second consecutive season, after seven years in a row of success.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Brian Ching (San Jose Earthquakes)
San Jose Earthquakes (9-10-11) vs. Dallas Burn (10-14-6)
October 16, 2004 -- Cotton Bowl
DAL -- Eddie Johnson 12 (Jason Kreis 1, Oscar Pareja 6) 12
SJ -- Brian Ching 12 (Landon Donovan 10, Brian Mullan 7) 34
SJ -- Ramiro Corrales 3 (Brian Mullan 8) 36
DAL -- Oscar Pareja 1 (Jason Kreis 2, Simo Valakari 4) 62
San Jose Earthquakes -- Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel, Jeff Agoos, Todd Dunivant, Ryan Cochrane, Brian Mullan (Ian Russell 53), Ronnie Ekelund (Dwayne De Rosario 27), Richard Mulrooney, Ramiro Corrales, Brian Ching, Landon Donovan.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Brown, Jon Conway, Wes Hart.
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Brian Ching 3, Landon Donovan 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Brian Ching 2); FOULS: 11 (3 tied with 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Dwayne De Rosario 1); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Jeff Agoos 3); SAVES: 0
Dallas Burn -- Jeff Cassar, Carey Talley (Matt Behncke 89), Cory Gibbs, Steve Jolley, Milton Reyes, Ronnie O'Brien, Oscar Pareja (Toni Nhleko 80), Simo Valakari, Brad Davis (Eric Quill 76), Eddie Johnson, Jason Kreis.
Substitutes Not Used: Scott Garlick, Chris Gbandi, Clarence Goodson, Ramon Nunez, Bobby Rhine, Jordan Stone.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Eddie Johnson 3, Jason Kreis 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Eddie Johnson 1, Oscar Pareja 1); FOULS: 26 (Oscar Pareja 6); OFFSIDES: 3 (Jason Kreis 2); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Brad Davis 3); SAVES: 4 (Jeff Cassar 4)
DAL -- Oscar Pareja (caution; Persistent Infringement) 23
SJ -- Landon Donovan (caution; Reckless Foul) 61
DAL -- Eddie Johnson (caution; Reckless Foul) 81
DAL -- Cory Gibbs (caution; Dissent) 89
SJ -- Dwayne De Rosario (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+
Referee: Terry Vaughn
Referee's Assistants: Robert Fereday; Fabio Tovar
4th Official: Ricardo Salazar
Time of Game: 1:53
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial