Saturday night may have been the most dramatic sporting event that I have ever been a part of.
On a chilly night at Buck Shaw Stadium with thousands of fans wearing blonde Steven Lenhart wigs, the Goonies struck again. For almost 90 minutes, the Quakes pressured the Fire and their brick wall keeper Sean Johnson to no avail. Simon Dawkins, Alan Gordon and Wondo had all tried their luck at getting a ball past Johnson, but it seemed to be Chicago’s night. In spite of the barrage, the Quakes found themselves down 1-0 and looking straight at their first loss of the season at Buck Shaw. To make matters even worse, three minutes into stoppage time, Gordon was served a second yellow, reducing the Quakes to 10 players, and head coach Frank Yallop was ejected. Things looked very bleak.
But Goonies never say die.
With only the smallest glimmer of hope, Shea Salinas bombed in a long cross that Chris Wondolowski trapped using his best Lenhart impersonation eight minutes into stoppage time. The ball found the foot of Lenny, whose "atomic shot" found the lower left corner of the goal for the equalizing goal. The crowd went WILD. I think I hugged about 50 people when the goal was scored. It was pure madness as blond wigs bobbed up and down on people’s heads. Some fans threw the wigs into the air. One wig found its way onto the field where Lenny swiftly picked it up and put it atop his fro in one of the greatest goal celebrations I have ever seen.
The whole day and result was just beyond belief. Please let me know if you remember a better goal celebration in Quakes history. Email me at email@example.com or tweet @QuakesPrez with any other candidates.
Before the match, I had a strange feeling that something memorable was going to happen. Frankly, I didn’t know if it would be good or bad. I think it all stemmed from the long and strange journey of our Epicenter Balloon. As many fans are aware, we have a cool blue Quakes balloon that proudly flies over the Epicenter and marks the location of all the prematch shenanigans. On Wednesday July 18 in front of a nationally televised audience on NBC Sports, our balloon became un-tethered from its stake. A dozen Quakes staff members and fans went running after the long spool of rope as the balloon gradually lifted higher and higher. Despite a heroic effort, the balloon was gone; just a speck in the sky thousands of feet above Buck Shaw. It was lost.
But Goonies never say die.
Three days later I received a text from Auggie Torres, our operations guru. It was a crystal clear photo of our little Goonie balloon resting comfortably on the water in the Sacramento delta. This could not be possible. The balloon lived! Our balloon traveled over 100 miles but she survived. In a stroke of luck, a Quakes employee was at a baptism near Sacramento where he ran into the fisherman who had found the balloon and fished it out of the Delta. What are the chances of that?!? So when you look up at the blue balloon this season, know that not all of the Goonies are on the pitch.
The dramatic result topped off another historic week for the Quakes and MLS. The MLS AT&T All-Star Game in Philadelphia showcased four of our players in an impressive 3-2 win over Champions League winner, Chelsea FC. Wondo got the first critical goal to put the MLS team up early. This set the tone that we could win the match. On defense, both Steven Beitashour and Justin Morrow played up and down the field in denying Chelsea many goal opportunities. Fourteen years into his MLS career, Ramiro Corrales helped keep our midfield poised for the final strike by Eddie Johnson to win the match. One cool thing about the game was that for the first time all the players wore an adidas miCoach heart rate and GPS location chip. MiCoach created amazing statistics like where positional movement, changes in speed and overall physical exertion. Beitashour led the entire team and Morrow finished third in a great display of the impressive athletic skills of our players.
The trip to Philly also included several days of MLS meetings. There was a lot of great news. TV ratings are up, including a great rating on the Quakes-Galaxy match on June 30 at Stanford Stadium. Interest in MLS in the digital space is growing by leaps and bounds on social media, web traffic and the blogosphere. Finally, the quality of play has increased with more attacking players and more exciting matches. As you can imagine, our Quakes are the poster child for that.
This week, we have a friendly match against Welsh team Swansea City on Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. at Buck Shaw Stadium. Some tickets still remain for the match. This is a great way to see an exciting Premiership team take the pitch against the Quakes. Swansea plays an open style like Barcelona with lots of passing and build up and Tuesday’s game should be exciting to watch. I hope to see you all there.