CenterLine Report: Defending Fort Buck Shaw
They may play in the facility with the smallest seating capacity in the league, but inside Buck Shaw Stadium the San Jose Earthquakes enjoy one of the best home field advantages in all of MLS. So far this season the Earthquakes are unbeaten in 10 games on their own pitch, where they have posted an impressive 7-0-3 record, and last lost at The Buck - a span of 13 games - way back in August of last year in a match against the Colorado Rapids.
This Saturday, 384 days after that 2-1 defeat at the hands of the Rapids, the Earthquakes welcome Colorado back to Buck Shaw with an eye toward making amends and extending their run of fine home cooking to 14 games at the expense of their Rocky Mountain foes. Since that August 13 night last season, the Earthquakes have scored a gaudy 30 goals at The Buck for a goals-per-game average of 2.31 while only conceding 13 for an impressive goal differential of +17.
Not only is the Quakes’ home unbeaten streak at stake Saturday evening, but another nearly concurrent feat of consistency is also being put up to the test - a curious but telling run of play over the last 12 months that has not seen the Earthquakes lose two consecutive games in MLS regular season play. The last time San Jose fell in two straight coincided with their loss against the Rapids last Aug. 13, ultimately ending up on the wrong end of a 2-0 result against LA on Aug. 20 at The Home Depot Center. In fact, the Earthquakes are one of only two teams throughout the league, Seattle Sounders FC being the other, not to drop back-to-back games all season. A bounce-back performance by the Earthquakes following last weekend’s disappointing loss at Montreal will keep both streaks alive.
Some will say the Earthquakes already have lost at home this season, courtesy of a 1-0 defeat at the hands of the Houston Dynamo back in March. True that loss does show up in San Jose’s home record, but that match was played at AT&T Park in San Francisco and not at Fortress Buck Shaw. Indomitable in atmosphere, though not imposing in size, The Buck is the real home of the Quakes, and the team defends their turf to the last minute of every match.
A look back at the last year reveals a storyboard of memorable performances by the Earthquakes at their Santa Clara home. And while every one of the 13 games during streak is worthy of celebration, a select few stand out as hallmark performances in San Jose’s outstanding run.
Earthquakes 4, FC Dallas 2 (Oct. 22, 2011): San Jose struggled to find their way during the summer of 2011, but over the last nine games of the season, the team would lose only twice. The season finale at Buck Shaw, in front of a stadium record 10,744 supporters, capped off their late run with an emphatic victory over FC Dallas. The match featured game-changing midfielder Simon Dawkins knocking in a pair of goals and star striker Chris Wondolowski trying to secure his second straight MLS Golden Boot award. The Quakes MVP drew level with DC United’s Dwayne De Rosario at the top of the league’s scoring chart with a first half penalty kick goal, but a host of missed chances by Wondolowski and heroic saves from Dallas goalkeeper Chris Seitz preempted what would have been a rousing celebration from the home faithful. Instead, at the sound of the final whistle, the appreciative crowd acknowledged Wondolowski’s efforts, as he fell just short of a historic MLS scoring title double, and went home dreaming of the next season of San Jose Earthquakes soccer.
Earthquakes 3, Real Salt Lake 1 (April 21, 2012): In what would be the first of three meetings between San Jose and Real Salt Lake this season with first place in the Western Conference at stake, the Earthquakes scored twice in stoppage time to beat nine-man RSL. With the visitors holding on for dear life in hopes of securing a 1-1 draw, Dawkins and Wondolowski scored emphatic goals to earn the victory and send the Earthquakes to the top of the standings for the first time since the conclusion of the 2005 season. The 3-1 triumph also marked a milestone for head coach Frank Yallop - the 100th win of his MLS coaching career. Scoring late and earning three points against RSL was no fluke for Yallop’s men, and the victory was an auspice of more heroics to come.
Earthquakes 1, Chivas USA 1 (May 13, 2012): As San Jose battled desperately for a goal against a resolute Chivas USA defense, the match seemed to march inevitably toward a 1-0 result in favor of the visitors. However, with the team’s Buck Shaw unbeaten streak in jeopardy, late game substitutes Alan Gordon and Sam Garza refused to give up, and the two unlikely heroes combined on a 88th minute goal to salvage a point for the Earthquakes. Gordon’s near post header from Garza’s whipped in cross squeezed past All-Star goalkeeper Dan Kennedy and sent the supporters into a frenzy. Gordon would go on to score a pair of stoppage time goals in his next two games - against the Columbus Crew to earn a 1-1 draw and at the LA Galaxy to complete a 3-2 comeback victory - prompting teammate Steven Lenhart to coin the Earthquakes unofficial 2012 motto of “Goonies never say die!”
Earthquakes 5, Real Salt Lake 0 (July 14, 2012): In their first game back at Buck Shaw Stadium in nearly two months, the Earthquakes dispatched of an undisciplined Real Salt Lake side to solidify their spot at the top of the MLS Supporters’ Shield standings. Already a goal up, the Earthquakes exploded for four more goals following the ejection of RSL’s Kyle Beckerman - including a hat-trick by the league’s leading scorer Wondolowski - and matched their biggest margin of victory in franchise history. What was billed as a battle for first place in the Western Conference was instead a celebratory capstone on the Earthquakes three game season sweep of Real Salt Lake.
Earthquakes 2, Seattle Sounders 1 (Aug. 11, 2012): Perhaps proving that the Earthquakes season to date was no fairy tale, San Jose served notice that as a team they would never give up until the final whistle. Nursing a 1-0 lead into stoppage time, the Earthquakes appeared to get a taste of their own late-game comeback medicine when nemesis Fredy Montero equalized for Seattle in the 92nd minute. However, instead of hanging their heads, the Earthquakes players quickly regrouped, and in the next - and last - minute of the match found a winning goal from the head of Lenhart. The talismanic forward, who two weeks earlier scored an equally dramatic late goal to earn a 1-1 draw against the Chicago Fire, brought on blonde-haired bedlam at The Buck for the second straight home game in beating the Sounders. Turning the tables on Seattle’s own valiant late storybook effort would also prove valuable in propelling San Jose further above their conference rivals in the standings.
Over a span of 12 months, and counting, the Earthquakes have turned Buck Shaw Stadium into their personal field of dreams. A boisterous home that has borne witness to nine victories and four draws in that time - many with now trademarked late game heroics of which superlatives don’t do justice to describe. Will the Earthquakes make it 14 in a row unbeaten at The Buck? Be sure to get out to Saturday’s match against the Colorado Rapids, kickoff is scheduled for 7:30 p.m., and find out.