What looked like a dream outcome for the San Jose Earthquakes became a nail-biting ride just to hang onto a critical road point against FC Dallas on Saturday.
The Quakes, who have won just one game away from home all season, were primed to bag road victory No. 2 with goals inside the first 16 minutes from Alan Gordon and Steven Beitashour.
But San Jose allowed a goal to Dallas’ Blas Perez just three minutes after Beitashour had doubled the Quakes’ lead. And with the hosts steadily increasing the pressure, San Jose allowed the equalizer in the 72nd minute when Michel converted a penalty kick -- drawn by Perez, despite the Quakes’ pleas to the contrary -- to tie the score at 2-2.
The game ended like that, and given that Justin Morrow saw red in the 81st minute, you could argue a tie was a good result for 9-man San Jose, who are scrambling to get into playoff position with just eight matches remaining in the season.
And the Earthquakes came in with high hopes on the strength of four wins in their previous five games. A victory on Saturday would have pushed San Jose past Dallas, on the overall-wins tiebreaker. Instead, with the draw the Quakes remained three points back, still in eighth place.
“It’s very disappointing for us,” Gordon told reporters after the contest. “We were in position to get three points here. I think we did enough to win the game. You can make your opinions about what you think about how they ended up tying the game, but it’s disappointing to us.”
As devastating as the penalty kick decision by refereree Baldomero Toldeo might have been -- "It didn’t look like a penalty, but I wouldn’t want to say anything more until I see the video," Quakes interim coach Mark Watson commented -- the Quakes’ biggest problem was arguably allowing Perez’s goal in the 19th minute, which put San Jose at risk of losing points for the rest of the night.
“It’s the perfect start,” Quakes interim coach Mark Watson said. “You score two goals in the first 20 minutes, away from home, that’s as good as it gets. At that point, as soon as the second goal went in, the real key is to defend, and not concede for that next 10 minutes, when you know they’re coming right back at you.
“They’re full of adrenaline and want to get one back as soon as possible. Unfortunately, they did get one [Perez goal].”
Ultimately, the Quakes’ playoff hopes will depend on winning at home and tying on the road, so the result is less crippling than aggravating.
“It’s mixed emotions right now,” Beitashour said. “We have a 2-0 lead, we’d like to come out with a victory.”
Geoff Lepper covers the San Jose Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com.