SANTA CLARA, Calif. — Alan Gordon’s first goal as a member of the San Jose Earthquakes couldn’t have been more timely.
With the Quakes looking down the barrel of a gut-wrenching home defeat to the expansion Portland Timbers, Gordon delivered a cracking header in the 67th minute Saturday to salvage a 1-1 tie for San Jose on Saturday night at Buck Shaw Stadium.
The goal equalized a 23rd-minute strike from Portland’s Kenny Cooper as neither team could come up with a victory that would have been tremendously helpful to their playoff hopes.
Gordon, acquired from Toronto FC on July 14 as part of a four-player trade, was playing only his second match for the Earthquakes (5-8-10) due to a strained right quadriceps. He came off the bench in the 56th minute as San Jose searched desperately for an offensive spark.
It didn’t take long to find one. Eleven minutes after coming on, Gordon cut inside Portland center back Eric Brunner to reach a long, looping cross from Steven Beitashour. Gordon’s snap header to the back post left Perkins with little to no chance.
San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch was equally helpless on Cooper’s goal, his first since April and one that looked as though it would give Portland (7-10-5) their second win in their last three road contests.
Jorge Perlaza used a well-timed run to burst down the right flank, and Cooper slipped through a discombobulated Earthquakes defense to touch the ball home at the top of the six-yard box. Bobby Burling, who kept Perlaza onside, couldn’t keep up with Cooper, who gave a left-footed tap to the near post as Busch guessed the other direction.
But Burling made up for it in the 88th minute, running down Bright Dike in the Quakes’ box to provide a sliding dispossession and stop what could have been a game-changing breakaway.
San Jose’s defenders provided two critical blocks on Lovel Palmer just a minute later. Jeremy Hall’s 90th-minute red card forced Portland to take their foot off the gas.
Joey Gjertsen, who opened wide right in just his second start since May 28, had the Quakes’ best scoring chance early, using a deft first touch to bring down a lead pass from Ramiro Corrales while maneuvering away from Portland left back Mike Chabala in the 17th minute. But Gjertsen’s left-footed shot off the high bounce was parried aside by Timbers goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
The Quakes were able to revamp their back four with several first-choice players coming available for San Jose coach Frank Yallop. In addition to Burling and Hernandez, there was Beitashour, who performed admirably during the Quakes’ six-match unbeaten streak in May and June before suffering an unspecified right leg injury July 6.
Portland had to juggle their midfield, with Jack Jewsbury missing a second straight match with a strained hamstring and Designated Player Diego Chara serving a one-game ban for yellow-card accumulation. Sal Zizzo started wide right, while Palmer, John Spencer’s usual right back, moved into a central midfield role. Hall returned to the XI for only the second time in seven matches, taking over for Palmer at right back.
The result kept eighth-place San Jose a point behind seventh-place Portland in the Western Conference standings. The Earthquakes next host the defending MLS Cup champion Colorado Rapids on Aug. 13. The Timbers, meanwhile travel to Houston the following day.
POR -- Kenny Cooper 4 (Jorge Perlaza 1, Sal Zizzo 3) 23
SJ -- Alan Gordon 5 (Steven Beitashour 4) 67
SJ -- Bobby Burling (caution; Reckless Tackle) 14
POR -- Lovel Palmer (caution; Reckless Foul) 51
POR -- Jeremy Hall (caution; Reckless Tackle) 70
SJ -- Bobby Convey (caution; Reckless Foul) 75
POR -- Jeremy Hall (ejection; Abusive Language) 90
Portland Timbers -- Troy Perkins, Jeremy Hall, Eric Brunner, David Horst, Mike Chabala, Darlington Nagbe (Kalif Alhassan 74), Sal Zizzo, James Marcelin, Lovel Palmer, Kenny Cooper (Mamadou Danso 89), Jorge Perlaza (Bright Dike 80).
Substitutes Not Used: Peter Lowry, Steve Purdy, Brian Umony, Adin Brown.
San Jose Earthquakes -- Jon Busch, Steven Beitashour, Bobby Burling, Jason Hernandez, Ramiro Corrales, Joey Gjertsen (Rafael Baca 82), Sam Cronin (Khari Stephenson 64), Brad Ring, Bobby Convey, Scott Sealy (Alan Gordon 57), Chris Wondolowski.
Substitutes Not Used: Nana Attakora, Chris Leitch, Tim Ward, Andrew Weber.
Referee: Hilario Grajeda
Referee's Assistants: Anthony Vasoli; Eric Proctor
4th Official: Sorin Stoica
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Clear and 73 degrees