SANTA CLARA, Calif. – By the time the media descended on Alan Gordon in the aftermath of his 88th-minute, point-saving header for the San Jose Earthquakes, the 30-year-old forward was already dressed and standing outside the Quakes’ locker room.
Cradling his young son in one arm while noshing on a slice of pepperoni pizza with the other, Gordon said he didn’t mind the interruption from reporters.
“I’d much rather do this than [answer], ‘Why are you still injured?’” Gordon said.
The same holds true for the Quakes, who saw Gordon return from a three-match absence due to a strained left hamstring and deliver yet another critical goal off the bench.
GOAL: Gordon grabs equalizer
“Alan has a knack for scoring,” Quakes coach Frank Yallop said. “He doesn’t duck out of a challenge, and he’s proven that he can finish when he gets the chance – and he finished a great one today.”
In 216 minutes played for San Jose since being acquired from Toronto FC in July 2011, Gordon has scored three times. All three goals have come in the 73rd minute or later; two of them secured late ties, and the other was credited as the game-winner against Vancouver
“Every time Alan Gordon has been on the field for us, he’s produced and been dangerous,” Quakes center back Jason Hernandez said. “When he’s healthy, he really, really helps us out.”
Gordon came on in the 57th minute in place of Tressor Moreno, playing alongside Steven Lenhart in a bruising pairing of target men as the Quakes pressed ahead in a rare (for them) 3-5-2 formation searching for an equalizer to Jose Correa’s fourth-minute strike.
The duo also teamed up in the final 15 minutes of the Quakes’ match against Real Salt Lake on April 21, and San Jose responded with two goals in that time span against nine-man RSL to secure a 3-1 victory.
“Lenny does a lot of dirty work, a lot of hard work for a long time up there,” Gordon said. “He really gives the back four a rough night every night. When I come in, I think they’re a little bit worn down. I’ve been able to reap the benefits of his hard work.”
Gordon’s work on his goal shouldn’t be underestimated. He went full-bore to the near post to knock home Sam Garza’s left-wing cross, even as imposing Chivas USA goalkeeper Dan Kennedy was closing, arms extended, for a punch clearance.
“If you look at the replay, he’s very brave,” Yallop said. “He’s crashing in there near post, with the keeper coming out, full fists flying, and he doesn’t waver, only worries about the ball. He got us a point today.”
Gordon has been fighting his hamstring for much of the season, and tweaked it in his appearance against RSL. That led him to shut things down for a couple of weeks – a move he hopes has solved the problem for the immediate future.
“A hamstring [injury] is a tricky thing,” Gordon said. “I don’t know how to judge it. I felt like it was 100 percent last time, and I had a setback. I gave it a little bit of extra time [for recuperation] and I think that was the difference this time. One week in the books, and we move onto another week of practice. I think it’s behind me now.”
If so, that would free up Gordon to make his case in training for more playing time, even though he knows it will be tough to displace Lenhart from Yallop’s first-choice XI.
“Lenny’s the guy who’s going to be up there,” Gordon said. “I’m here to push him, and be there when called upon. Frank knows he can trust me to come in and do a job. And that’s what I’ve done.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.