Just one day removed from a downtown rally that saw an estimated 1,500 Earthquakes fans gather in support of a new stadium and a plea to keep the team in San Jose, the defending MLS Cup champions passed the Dallas Burn in the Western Conference standings with a 3-0 victory at Spartan Stadium on Saturday night.
Sporting red throwback kit to celebrate the 30th anniversary of the Earthquakes beginnings in San Jose in the North American Soccer League, the MLS Earthquakes held up a banner that read "Keep us in San Jose!!!" as they were introduced.
But the off-field drama and speculation of the week didn't seem to affect San Jose efforts to climb in the conference standings. Ramiro Corrales gave the Quakes an early lead before a Cory Gibbs own goal accidentally doubled the advantage before the half. Brian Ching put the nail in the coffin with his league-best 11th goal of the season as the Quakes leapfrogged Dallas into the fourth and final playoff position in the Western Conference.
"At times I didn't know which team was which," said Earthquakes coach Dominic Kinnear. "I grew up in the Bay Area and I remember going to Earthquakes games. It brings back some nice memories. With tonight's score, maybe we should wear them the rest of the year."
The Quakes opened the scoring in the fifth minute when Corrales drilled a 15-yard bullet passed a scrambling Jeff Cassar. The goal was set up by Richard Mulrooney and a back pass from Landon Donovan who found himself deep inside the penalty area to the left of Cassar before laying the ball back for Corrales, who then hit for his second tally on the season.
The Burn then gave up an own goal in the 24th minute when Corrales got into the act again. The Quakes midfielder saw his shot mishandled by a diving Garlick after deflecting off Gibbs. The redirected ball glanced off Garlick's right hand and into the back of the net to double the San Jose lead.
"He deserved credit for both goals. He was excellent tonight -- very good on the ball and off the ball," Kinnear said. "It was one of his better games for sure."
Ching made it 3-0 in the 52nd minute. Mulrooney chipped the ball forward to Ching, who played a lovely one-two with strike partner Donovan before finishing with aplomb.
But most of the post-match talk focused on the past, present and future of the Earthquakes -- which, ironically, all came together in a perfect storm of sorts on Saturday night.
"To be honest, we don't talk about it [the possible move] much. The news can be a little unsettling," Kinnear said. "But on the field we can be focused on one thing and that's getting a win. When you are on the field you just think about one thing. This is a tight group that sticks together, so we should be OK."
Added Donovan: "It's just nice to be on the field. It's a release for us to just go out and play."
Tim Sitar is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.