Rally past Galaxy named Fantastic Finish of the Year

California Clasico comeback voted to MLSsoccer.com's Best of 2013

Fans came to Stanford Stadium on June 29 expecting there would be, as advertised, an elaborate post-game fireworks show.

The couldn’t know that, for the second straight year, the San Jose Earthquakes would give them an unscheduled pyrotechnic display on the pitch as well.

Down a goal, playing with 10 men and facing a fourth loss in five matches, the Quakes got goals from Shea Salinas and Alan Gordon in successive second-half injury-time minutes to deliver a stunning 3-2 victory against the LA Galaxy – the club that bounced top-seeded San Jose from the 2012 playoffs.

The shocking comeback came 364 days after the Quakes responded from a two-goal deficit to beat the Galaxy 4-3 in the same venue, which was voted the MLS Game of the Year on MLSsoccer.com in 2012.

In that instance, San Jose went up in the 61st minute and then withstood heavy pressure from the visitors. This time, the Quakes left it as late as possible, heightening the drama for a sellout crowd of 50,028 but likely adding some gray hairs to the head of then-interim San Jose coach Mark Watson, who was leading the club in a home match for the first time.

Last-minute escapes were a trademark of the 2012 Supporters’ Shield-winning Quakes squad, and on this night, San Jose looked every bit the equal of that edition – even after losing defender Victor Bernardez in the 77th minute to a pair of yellow cards just eight minutes apart.

The Quakes’ received a good measure of help on their equalizer. A long throw from Justin Morrow on the left wing deflected off a couple of Galaxy defenders, and goalkeeper Carlo Cudicini was only able to block the ball on his doorstep. That afforded Salinas a chance to zip in and tuck home the free rebound with his left foot.

The game-winner, however, was pure counter-attacking class. After Marcelo Sarvas’ shot was blocked by San Jose’s defense, Salinas set Marvin Chavez free with a long pass down the left sideline. Chavez’s stepover-and-deke combination broke the ankles of LA defender A.J. DeLaGarza, at which point the grinning Honduran international skied a pass over the Galaxy box to the indefatigable Salinas, who had made a lung-bursting diagonal run to provide a target on the right side.

Salinas pulled his pass back for Sam Cronin at 15 yards. Rather than blasting a hopeful shot, Cronin chipped a cultured pass to the back post, where an unmarked Gordon calmly nodded it home to beat his former employer of some six seasons.

Pandemonium reigned at Stanford, leaving Watson to marvel at the finish: “I don’t think those things are supposed to happen, really.”

2. Red Bulls rally past RSL, July 27 – Already honored on this site as the Game of the Year in MLS, Dax McCarty put the cherry on top of this one in stoppage time in a game that saw four goals scored after the 80th minute.

3. Rapids stun Impact late, June 29 – Rarely does a game-winning goal come as late as it did in this one for Colorado. Tony Cascio scored the winner at Stade Saputo in the 96th minute as the Rapids rallied from a goal down twice to win.