STANFORD, Calif. — Growing up in Colorado, San Jose Earthquakes center back Bobby Burling always looked forward to his family’s tradition of watching the Rapids play on Fourth of July weekend and sticking around for the postgame fireworks show.
He probably never imagined the kind of fireworks he’d provide in San Jose’s 2-2 tie with the New York Red Bulls before a franchise-record 41,028 at Stanford Stadium on Saturday.
First, Burling was victimized by Joel Lindpere’s 85th-minute drive from just outside the penalty box, when his attempted clearance instead led to the ball zipping past goalkeeper Jon Busch for a late Red Bulls equalizer.
Then, adding insult to injury, the fifth-year man earned a second yellow card in injury time, resulting in his first ejection in 55 career MLS appearances.
“[We’re] disappointed to concede a late goal, but I guess the nature of a deflected shot is always hard to take,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “Jon’s going to save the shot and then it goes off Bobby’s head and goes in.”
Busch felt he had a good bead on the ball, but with the Quakes defense under siege — Busch had made superlative stops on Dane Richards and Lindpere in the previous 30 seconds — it was hard to fault Burling for trying to steer a third attempt wide of the net.
Burling was gone by the time media members arrived in the Earthquakes locker room, but it was obviously not the way the 26-year-old wanted to finish a week that began with a vote of confidence; San Jose management felt comfortable enough with Burling’s body of work to sell off fellow center back Brandon McDonald to D.C. United on Monday in exchange for allocation money.
“I thought that he actually had a really good game, just a couple of unlucky instances,” Quakes star Chris Wondolowski said of Burling. “That’s one of the reasons why I don’t play defense: You mess up, and it costs [you] a goal. I mess up on offense, it’s alright.
“It’s not even a mess-up. It’s just one of those things where it’s an unfortunate bounce for them. You can’t blame him.”
Steven Lenhart, whose 68th-minute goal had put San Jose (5-5-6) in position to take a second comeback win in less than a month, said that Burling has to stay the course despite the unwanted outcome.
“Those things happen,” Lenhart said. “You don’t dwell on them. You don’t change your game because of them. I think you have to go for that ball every time. ... We’re definitely going to miss him.”
Burling took his first card in the 80th minute after using a rough-and-tumble shoulder block to dispossess New York forward Juan Agudelo. He was sent off for making a lunging stab at the ball as the Quakes attempted to break out on the counterattack from a 91st-minute Red Bulls corner kick.
New York midfielder Teemu Tainio just beat Burling to the ball, short-circuiting what could have been a promising break with numbers for the Quakes.
Burling, who shot up immediately after referee Edvin Jurisevic blew his whistle, looked to have been impeded by New York defender Roy Miller just before the showdown with Tainio. That didn’t move Jurisevic, however, who swiftly showed Burling the gate.
“I thought Bobby Burling was getting pulled back and we were on a three-on-one break,” Yallop said. “It seemed a weird call for me.”
With McDonald gone and Ike Opara still injured, Yallop’s first two choices as a replacement are right back Chris Leitch and holding midfielder Brad Ring. The coach said he wouldn’t decide until San Jose reconvenes on Monday.
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com. On Twitter: @sjquakes