CenterLine Report: Memorable matches on the path to 200 franchise wins

Robert Jonas counts down the club's most memorable regular season wins

Following their dramatic 1-0 victory over the Philadelphia Union Sunday night, the shorthanded San Jose Earthquakes celebrated their sixth consecutive home win. In addition, the shutout victory brought the Quakes MLS franchise total to 199, one shy of an impressive 200th milestone win. San Jose has its first chance to reach that double-century mark this Saturday night when the Vancouver Whitecaps FC come calling to Buck Shaw Stadium.

That the historic 200th victory could come in front of the Quakes most passionate fans presents a fabulous opportunity and added incentive for the team to tip the ‘Caps this weekend. In fact, with a shared establishment year of 1974 for both clubs in their origination in the old NASL, a win by San Jose over Vancouver would provide a fascinating footnote in the history between the two sides.

Looking back at wins number 1 through 199, a lot of memorable games stand out. Not surprisingly, heavily populating the list of highlights are numerous match-ups between the Quakes and the LA Galaxy, but it hasn’t just been the California Clasicos that fans will never forget. In fact, perusing the list of 199 wins to date, starting back in 1996 with the inaugural game of MLS, reveals some incredible matches. 

#1 — (April 6, 1996) Clash 1, DC United 0 — With a sellout crowd in attendance at Spartan Stadium and an impressive television audience watching from around the nation, San Jose and DC kicked off the start of MLS back in the Spring of ’96. DCU, which would eventually go on to win the inaugural MLS Cup (and a second one in as many years the next season), fell victim to a late goal from star U.S. international forward Eric Wynalda that booked San Jose a place in MLS history. 

#50 — (July 4, 1999) Clash 1 (3), DC United 1 (2) — When is a draw actually a win? Try the early years of MLS, when the league used a shootout to determine the winner of matched tied at the end of regulation. And on Independence Day 1999, San Jose earned one of its best shootout victories ever. In front of 73,123 soccer fans, the largest crowd ever to watch a San Jose game, gathered at Stanford Stadium as part of a doubleheader with the Women’s World Cup, the Clash didn’t disappoint in knocking off DC United 3-2 in the shootout. That the U.S. Women defeated Brazil 2-0 that day also provided an indelible highlight for the record crowd.

#67 — (April 7, 2001) Earthquakes 3, Galaxy 2 — Of the 199 franchise victories amassed by San Jose, former head coach Frank Yallop earned 99 of them. His first at the helm of the Quakes came in his first game in charge, against the Galaxy no less, and set the tone for the clubs first championship season under the rookie coach.

#136 — (May 22, 2008) Earthquakes 2, Dynamo 1 — In the first regular season battle between the old Quakes and the new Quakes, San Jose came up on top in front of a packed Buck Shaw Stadium and national TV audience on ESPN. Goals from Kei Kamara and Ivan Guerrero made the difference, as they led the team to its first home win as the new Earthquakes.

#160 — (September 25, 2010) Earthquakes 3, Toronto FC 2 — The 2010 season will not just be remembered for the Quakes playoff run to the Eastern Conference championship game, but also for the emergence of Chris Wondolowski as a bona fide MLS superstar. On the road and in front of a hostile crowd, Wondo netted a hat-trick to lead San Jose to an important late season victory against Toronto. Less than two months later, Wondo was celebrating his first MLS Golden Boot award.

#178 — (May 23, 2012) Earthquakes 3, Galaxy 2 — After completing a stunning comeback from a two-goal deficit when Alan Gordon nodded home the game winner deep into stoppage time, Lenhart quipped that San Jose was like the Goonies — “Never Say Die!” The legend was born, as the Quakes embodied that mantra throughout the 2012 season, capturing the attention of MLS Nation with their penchant for scoring dramatic late goals.

#181 — (June 30, 2012) Earthquakes 4, Galaxy 3 — In front of the largest stand-alone soccer crowd in franchise history, the Quakes defeated rival LA in what many consider the greatest MLS match of 2012. Again, falling behind by two goals, San Jose battled back to gain the lead as none other than Wondolowski netted the game-winning-goal with a skill-check back heel. As a national TV audience on ESPN could agree, these Goonies were for real.

#194 — (June 29, 2013) Earthquakes 3, Galaxy 2 — What is it about the Cali Clasico that makes for such great theatre? For the second straight year, in front of another packed house at Stanford Stadium, the Quakes pulled off another amazing comeback from a two-goal deficit. This time, it was Shea Salinas and Gordon with the heroics, as each found the back of the net in stoppage time to stun visiting LA. Like the 2012 edition, you will get no arguments that this game is the MLS match of the year.

And so, the Earthquakes stand on the precipice of an amazing milestone. With the club’s success at home this season, franchise win #200 may very well come as soon as this Saturday against the Vancouver Whitecaps. And when it comes, the accomplishment will mean a lot to everyone that has ever believed in the Quakes.

Robert Jonas is a writer for CenterLineSoccer.com and SJEarthquakes.com. Send him feedback on Twitter: @RobertJonas