It was a night of firsts Saturday in the last Major League Soccer game played at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas, a 2-2 draw between the San Jose Earthquakes and FC Dallas:
The first of a four-game road trip for the Earthquakes.
The first non-win after five straight home victories for FC Dallas.
The first time in six weeks the Quakes had given up more than one goal in a game.
The first goal of the year for Brian Mullan, a sixth minute goal that tied the game two minutes after former Earthquake Arturo Alvarez scored his first Dallas goal.
The first San Jose goal for Ricardo Clark, which tied the game in the 59th minute, two minutes after Chris Gbandi scored his first goal of the year.
And, it was the first time this year when the Quakes really felt like a tie was a positive.
"A tie isn't all that bad considering the circumstances," said head coach Dominic Kinnear.
Let's recount just a few of the circumstances: It was 92 degrees and very humid for a 7:35 p.m. kickoff; the Quakes were behind only four minutes into the game; Eddie Robinson left with a hamstring strain in the 20th minute; Danny Califf picked up his second yellow card 35 minutes into the match. On top of the in-game roadblocks, add the fact that the game was played a couple days after Brian Ching underwent surgery to repair a torn hamstring, and both Dwayne De Rosario and Brad Davis (who have combined for 14 assists this year) are off playing with their national teams.
"I think our team showed a lot of character today," said Clark, who stunned FC Dallas with his 23-yard blast off a pass from Kelly Gray.
"I think when you have 10 men, to score a goal, it has to be a special individual effort," Kinnear said. "Give Ricardo credit for a wonderful turn. It was just a great finish."
The Quakes left town in the same place they got to Dallas - nine points behind FC Dallas and battling for second place in the conference. Though the Quakes had their three-game winning streak stopped, they are still unbeaten in six straight (3-0-3 since a loss to Los Angeles on May 21).
The Quakes continue to send the message to the rest of the league that they will show up and play hard every single night. Only two of their 16 games have been decided by more than one goal, the back-to-back 3-0 wins at home over Real Salt Lake and Los Angeles.
"We were the first team to come out of here with any points," said goalkeeper Pat Onstad. "To do that with 10 men for 55 to 60 minutes is great, and we came from behind twice in the game."
Being down 1-0 in the first half and 2-1 in the second half didn't seem to faze the players, who seem to gain in confidence with every good result.
"To come back twice showed that we can get the job done," Clark said. "And get a good result when we need to."
The last game in the Cotton Bowl, as it turns out, was a first-class effort by a team that couldn't be more delighted with one point. Some nights a tie feels like a win. This was one of those nights - a first this season.