“I don’t think those things are supposed to happen.”
With a look of near bewilderment still on his face and with the cascade of booming fireworks echoing through the locker room, head coach Mark Watson spoke not only for himself, but the more than 50,000 fans that night at Stanford Stadium that had just witnessed history.
“It’s one thing to be down a couple goals, but to be down a player as well,” continued Watson. “It was a pretty special night.”
No other team throughout MLS, in the 18-plus years the league has existed, has ever secured victory from a match in which it entered stoppage time with only 10 men on the field and trailing on the scoreboard. That is, until the San Jose Earthquakes completed their dramatic comeback against the LA Galaxy, with the capacity crowd roaring their support, winning by a score of 3-2.
“I can’t say enough about the fans,” said Sam Cronin, who provided the final assist on the game winning goal. “They kept us going, cheering for us, staying behind us, and we kept battling and fighting.”
The recipient of Cronin’s pinpoint accurate cross was Alan Gordon, who had entered the game midway through the second half as a replacement for Steven Lenhart. Gordon notched the first goal in the comeback as well, but the head Goonie and MLS Player of the Week knows he couldn’t have done it without the big crowd rallying behind him.
“I felt energized by the crowd,” said Gordon when asked to describe the atmosphere in the stadium. “We had been on the road a long time, on such a grind. We needed a little push, and we got a big push. That was great and such a special night.”
A question mark for the line-up earlier in the build-up to the Cali Clasico, Chris Wondolowski willed himself into the Starting XI, and although his name won’t show up on the score sheet, he was still a catalyst for the Quakes. That sour taste in his mouth Wondolowski described after being ousted by the Galaxy in last year’s playoffs? Well, the MVP savored this victory like no other this season.
“To go down two goals again and to score two late is a great feeling,” an elated Wondolowski shared from the post-game locker room. “Especially in front of the fans who stayed behind us the whole way. I know it could have easy to turn on is, but I really appreciate them having our backs. They’re the ones that get us through the tough times.”
Tough times through the first half of the season, and tough times within Saturday’s Clasico. The Galaxy had scored twice, once either side of halftime, and looked poised to run the Quakes right out of the building. And when bruising defender Victor Bernardez was shown a red card with just a quarter hour left in the match, it would have been understandable if the Earthquakes had succumbed to their rivals.
Instead, something remarkable happened at Stanford Stadium, as the capacity crowd took umbrage at the questionable call on their beloved Big Vic and one by one stood to cheer their encouragement.
“The fans were unbelievable,” said Shea Salinas, whose electrifying performance played a part in all three Quakes goals on the night. “That was the loudest game I’ve ever been in in my life. I kept looking around the stadium: ‘Wow, this is crazy!’ Every fan was on their feet by the end. It was so fun to play.”
Fun instead of frustrating would have been the theme of the night if the Galaxy had held on to beat the 10-man Quakes. Instead, as if making up for the absence of Bernardez, the fans joined in the match as best they could, lifting the spirits of the remaining players on the field their with boisterous support.
“The 11th man,” Salinas described the crowd, “they were great. I wish we played in front of 50,000 every Saturday night.”
While the Earthquakes will return to intimate Buck Shaw Stadium for their next home match on July 13 against Seattle, the team hopes that the fans that pack the house will be as equally passionate. The Goonies magic that is a hallmark of the Quakes was on full display at Stanford Stadium, and the team will continue to draw from it as they push ahead in the second half of the season in search of a playoff spot.
“This locker room never says die,” said Wondolowski, motioning around him at his battle-worn teammates. “That’s the way we play and that’s the way we live.”
And in yet another memorable California Clasico, when the team needed them the most, the crowd played their role in the exciting victory. Yes, the Earthquakes welcomed another 50,000 Goonies into the fray, if just for one day.