STANFORD, Calif. – Chris Wondolowski’s side-footed game-winner Saturday against the LA Galaxy will go down in San Jose Earthquakes history as the club’s latest moment of sublime California Clasico artistry.
But without Victor Bernárdez’s earlier application of brute force, it’s doubtful that Wondolowski would have ever gotten the chance to complete San Jose’s 4-3 come-from-behind victory in front of more than 50,000 at Stanford Stadium.
With the Quakes reeling from LA’s onslaught late in the first half – three goals in the space of 10 minutes – Bernárdez made a near-post run on Marvin Chávez’s 44th-minute corner kick, delivering a full-blooded full volley that sped past Galaxy goalkeeper Josh Saunders and cut a 3-1 deficit into an infinitely more manageable 3-2 scoreline.
GOAL: Bernárdez cuts the lead to one
“There’s a huge difference there,” Earthquakes coach Frank Yallop said. “One goal is not a mountain, so you can pick away at it.”
They didn’t need long to do so: Sam Cronin provided an equalizer just two minutes after halftime, and Wondolowski concocted the difference-maker in the 61st minute, converting Ramiro Corrales’ flicked header off another Chávez corner.
Bernárdez declined to speak to reporters about his first MLS score, but there were plenty of other voices raised in praise of the 30-year-old, who signed with San Jose in the offseason from Belgian giants Anderlecht.
“Without that goal, they probably bunker in a bit, having that two-goal lead, and make it really, really difficult for us to break them down, like they have in the past,” Quakes defender Jason Hernandez said, recalling last year’s scoreless tie despite being a man up for 47 minutes on an LA side reduced to playing attacker Mike Magee in goal.
“Coming into halftime, we’re feeling like we have the game in our hands. We can do what we want with the match.”
Cronin echoed Hernandez’s sentiments: “Víctor’s goal ... was the biggest moment of the game, without question.”
Bernárdez was signed to be a rock in the Earthquakes backline, but it felt for a while like a goal was coming for the Honduran international, who scored for his country in a friendly against El Salvador during San Jose’s nearly four-week MLS break.
Returning from injury against Colorado on June 20, Bernárdez showed off his long-range free kick form, including a swerving blast from 40 yards that required a leaping save from Matt Pickens to prevent the ball from ducking just under the crossbar.
“We came in here and believed from that goal that we were going to keep it going,” Wondolowski said.
San Jose did so on several different fronts, coming up with their fifth comeback victory this season and their second comeback from a two-goal deficit against the Galaxy.
“I can’t say enough about the fellas we have in the team and on the squad,” Yallop said. “They never seem to quit.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at email@example.com.