SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Ignorance of the law rarely works as a courtroom defense. Turns out it’s equally ineffective on the soccer pitch.
The San Jose Earthquakes found that out in painful fashion Saturday night, when defender Victor Bernardez and forward Alan Gordon were both stranded on the sideline while Vancouver Whitecaps forward Corey Hertzog scored his first career MLS goal. That 62nd-minute strike proved the equalizer in a 1-1 tie that left the Quakes ruing a sequence which left them in a self-inflicted shorthanded state.
“It was really disappointing,” Gordon said. “I thought we had a great performance tonight and that’s what’s going to stick out. We lost a few points there because . . . it was a mistake.
“I take full responsibility for that. I feel like I let the team down, left them without two guys. They took advantage of it and we got punished.”
The Quakes were caught unaware of the minutia of Law 4 in FIFA’s Laws of the Game, which deals with players’ equipment. The last of six clauses under the section entitled “Infringements and sanctions” states that players who have left under circumstances such as Bernardez and Gordon are “only allowed to re-enter the field of play when the ball is out of play.”
Gordon said he came off because he thought midfielder Sam Cronin was going to receive attention from the Quakes’ training staff, affording him the time to change back to his initial set of boots, which he took off at halftime in an attempt to gain better traction. Gordon needed to go back to the first pair because the new set irritated the bottom of his left foot, where he had a nerve removed this winter.
Bernardez had been waiting for several minutes to change cleats, apparently troubled by the slick surface at Buck Shaw Stadium.
Gordon said the officials “made us get off the field” to change cleats, and at that point, they were at the mercy of waiting for the next stoppage.
Unfortunately for the Quakes, that didn’t come for almost two full minutes -- or until Hertzog had collected a deflected shot by teammate Daigo Kobayashi and driven a shot to the left of helpless San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch.
OPTA CHALKBOARD: Quakes go to trusted offensive formula, but can't find second goal
“It was really poor on our behalf of not realizing that the rule is you can’t go back on the field [during the run of play],” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “There has to be a stoppage in play... It’s just one of those nights that frustrates the team and frustrates me as a head coach.”
Yallop admitted the rule was a surprise to him, as did Gordon, who said flatly: “I have never heard of that.”
The sequence spoiled what was an otherwise strong night from the Quakes, who looked as dangerous as they have all year, buoyed by the presence of Gordon in the starting lineup and Steven Lenhart making his 2013 debut in the 69th minute.
“I think every year in MLS, you probably see something you’ve never seen before in your life,” said Vancouver goalkeeper Joe Cannon, a longtime former Quake. “That might be the moment for this year.”
And that is much to the Quakes’ chagrin.