Coming off two straight losses on the road to D.C. United and Dallas, the San Jose Clash were already tired from their crazy schedule of six games in 18 days. They were also without star Eric Wynalda, who was with the U.S. national team in the 1996 U.S. Cup. The only thing the Clash wanted was a break, but instead they were forced to regroup and face Mexican First Division club U.N.A.M. Pumas of Mexico City on June 12, 1996 at Spartan Stadium. After 90 minutes, the Clash had established themselves as the first MLS team in history to defeat an international opponent.
Pumas, long one of the top Mexican First Division clubs, had recently finished the 1995-96 season in third place in their group with a record of 13-10-11. The team had fallen to powerhouse Club America in the first round of the playoffs. The Clash and Pumas had been in contact with each other earlier in the 1996 MLS season when the Clash almost signed offensive Pumas player Braulio Luna, but ended up opting for Chivas forward Missael Espinoza instead.
The Clash and Pumas played on a pleasant Wednesday night before a good crowd of 11,955 fans. San Jose head coach Laurie Calloway changed around the Clash lineup a bit due to some injuries, the absence of Wynalda, and to try to give the team a spark after their two-game losing streak. Second-string goalie Dave Salzwedel took the start over Tom Liner. Michael Emenalo started in midfield rather than in his normal defensive position, while Jeff Baicher played up top instead of in midfield. Defender Oscar Draguicevich made just his second start of the season against Pumas.
The Clash jumped to a 1-0 lead in the 34th minute on a goal by Paul Bravo. Midfielder Eddie Lewis took a pass from Espinoza on the left side of the penalty box and crossed the ball to forward Bravo, who headed the ball past Pumas goalkeeper Sergio Bernal into the right side of the net.
Shortly after the start of the second half, the Mexican team answered back. In the 56th minute, Pumas midfielder Vicente Nieto blasted a shot off of a pass from forward Jesus Olalde from 25 yards out to tie the score at 1.
Following the Pumas goal, Calloway made what turned out to be his best decision of the game when he substituted Jorge Rodas onto the field in place of Baicher. Just 10 minutes later, Pumas defender Carlos Carino took down Lewis outside the right corner of the goal box. Rodas took the free kick, and broke the 1-1 tie when he drilled the 23-yard shot past the Pumas wall and Bernal in the 66th minute.
"When I was standing in front of the ball, Missael (Espinoza) told me to look for John Doyle, because he's so much taller than the Pumas players," Rodas said through an interpreter after the game. "But then he turned back and said, 'Just hit it hard,' and I saw the goalkeeper was a little bit off the line, so I just hit it through the wall."
Rodas' goal sealed the deal for the Clash, but not without the help of the defense. Defenders Tim Martin, Troy Dayak, and Doyle did not allow the Mexican team to score throughout the rest of the match.
"Everything was solid back there," said Clash captain Doyle at the time. "Timmy cleaned up the back and Michael (Emenalo) won a lot of balls higher up. I think it's something we can build on."
The 2-1 victory over Pumas made the San Jose Clash the first MLS team to defeat an international club in history.
"This is a very good result for us, especially after what we went through last week," said Calloway following the game, commenting on the Clash's previous two consecutive MLS losses. "Maybe we built a little base tonight, something we can grow from."
And build on it they did. The Clash gained confidence from defeating the Mexican club, as they followed up the game against Pumas with their best streak of the entire season. San Jose earned five victories out of their next six MLS games, as well as three straight wins immediately following the international exhibition.
Since that win over U.N.A.M. Pumas, the San Jose Clash/Earthquakes have defeated three other professional international opponents, Sichuan Quan Xing of China in 1996, Shanghai Shenhua FC of China in 2003, and Sporting Club of Lisbon, Portugal in 2003. The San Jose franchise holds an all-time record of 4-6-4 in international exhibition matches in club history.