In August of 2002, the San Jose Earthquakes were a team on a roll. Alone in first place and bolstered by a high-scoring offense led by Landon Donovan and Ariel Graziani and a stingy defense that featured Joe Cannon and Jeff Agoos, the Quakes appeared set to cruise into the playoffs. They were a good bet to win almost any game they played, especially if that game was played at Spartan Stadium.
Heading into the Quakes August 17 match at Spartan against D.C. United, San Jose was 10-0 at home in 2002, and dating back to 2001 had a streak of 12 straight home wins on the line vs. D.C. On a hot afternoon in San Jose, D.C. United quickly looked to end the Quakes good run, as Eliseo Quintanilla scored just five minutes into the game. Quintanilla slipped behind the San Jose defense off a free kick, and Marco Etcheverry's cross found Eddie Pope in the corner of the 18-yard box, and he headed the ball directly to an open Quintanilla, who touched the ball past Cannon from close range for the 1-0 lead.
But the United lead would not last long, as the Earthquakes showed why they were so difficult to beat at Spartan Stadium when midfielder Ronnie Ekelund buried a penalty kick in the 17th minute to even the match at 1-1. Following a quick re-start on a free kick, midfielder Ramiro Corrales controlled the ball in heavy traffic near the top of the D.C. penalty box. The ball came loose, but as Earthquakes forward Dwayne De Rosario attempted to collect it for a shot he was brought down by Ben Olsen, setting up Ekelund's goal.
But D.C. United would not let the defending champion Earthquakes break out as they had so many times during the season at Spartan Stadium. United briefly took the lead once again in the 61st minute on Quintanilla's second goal of the game. The Salvadoran forward took a pass from Pope to the right of the Earthquakes net and fired a shot on goal through a tangle of San Jose defenders. The shot was deflected, but bounced right back to Quintanilla, who fired another rocket that bounced off a hustling Ian Russell and past Cannon for the 2-1 lead.
Facing a 2-1 deficit and a potential loss at Spartan Stadium for the first time since August 18, 2001, the Earthquakes would storm back yet again. Two minutes after falling behind, Ekelund notched his second goal of the match with a marvelous strike from 25 yards out on a free kick. De Rosario was fouled to set up the kick, and Ekelund blasted a shot off the left post and into the net to tie the match at 2-2, giving him his first multi-goal game in an Earthquakes uniform.
With both teams desperately pushing forward for the win, De Rosario almost came through with the go-ahead goal in the 82nd minute when he broke toward the D.C. net following a string of nice passes from Landon Donovan and Manny Lagos, but the forward was rebuked by a sliding Rimando. The final minutes of regulation featured several hectic moments, as Cannon was forced to make a brilliant save to preserve the Quakes tie and home unbeaten streak, shutting down United's Bobby Convey on a break-away with only seconds remaining. At the other end, Rimando proved equal to the task as well, diving to smother an Ekelund free kick in the 88th minute that would have extended the Quakes home winning streak to 13 games.
Instead, the game ended in a tie, as the Earthquakes saw their winning streak at Spartan Stadium come to an end. The 12 game winning streak broke the MLS record for the longest home wining streak. The home-unbeaten streak did not come to an end, however. And the Quakes would end up pushing their home-unbeaten streak to a total of 15 games, finally ending in a 1-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on September 21, 2002. The 15 game home-unbeaten streak is tied with Chicago, Los Angeles and the 1999-2000 edition of the Quakes for the third longest home-unbeaten streak in league history. In 2002, the Earthquakes set the league record for best home winning percentage with a .893 mark.
Since 2001, the Earthquakes have made Spartan Stadium one of the toughest places in the league to play. Opposing teams fear coming into the tighter confines of Spartan to face the Quakes high-pressure, up-tempo attack. Quakes head coaches Frank Yallop (2001-2003) and Dominic Kinnear (2004-present) have developed a true home field advantage at Spartan Stadium.