With all the fairy-tale endings the San Jose Earthquakes have been writing this month, it was only proper that forward Steven Lenhart would invoke a Hollywood cult classic to describe the phenomenon.
“Goonies never say die,” Lenhart said in the Quakes’ raucous locker room on Wednesday night, invoking the 1985 film of the same name as he discussed San Jose’s 3-2 win against the LA Galaxy.
The Quakes trailed 2-0 after 73 minutes, but pumped home three goals from the 76th onward against a Galaxy side reduced to 10 men after Hector Jimenez’s red card in the 59th.
HIGHLIGHTS: LA 2, SJ 3
The result pushed San Jose to 3-1-3 this season in matches where they’ve allowed the first goal. The Quakes are the only MLS club with a winning record in such situations, which is a large reason why they sit atop the league’s leaderboard on 27 points at 8-2-3.
Alan Gordon’s stoppage-time game-winner marked the third straight match in which he scored in the 88th minute or later to snare points for the Quakes via two ties and Wednesday's victory. Of San Jose’s 26 goals – tied for the league lead – nine have come after the 75th.
“We take it one game at a time, the old cliché, but it feels amazing,” said Gordon, who played for the Galaxy for parts of seven seasons. “I don’t have any grudges against LA or anything; it doesn’t feel any more special here than somewhere else. We want points, we got points, so we feel good right now.”
The most obvious thing to point to when discussing San Jose’s late-game prowess is the team’s depth, which continues to shine even with Chris Wondolowski (away on U.S. national-team duty), Shea Salinas and Victor Bernardez (both still injured) all unavailable. When an MLS coach can bring Gordon, Khari Stephenson (who slotted home an 82nd-minute penalty) and Marvin Chavez off the bench (who assisted on Lenhart’s goal in the 76th), he’s got a better-than-average chance of being successful in the later stages of a match.
“Adding Marvin late in the game was great,” Yallop said of Chavez, who hadn’t played since May 5 due to a strained left hamstring but came on in the 74th minute. “Marvin only had 25 to 30 minutes in him . . . We didn’t want to risk him [getting re-injured], but we wanted to give him enough time to make sure he impacted the game. And if you look at the game, I think he impacted it quite well.”
As Gordon put it: “The guys on the bench are hungry to play, which keeps the guys on the field on top of their game. The subs that get in are doing well, working their butts off.”
Paired with that talent level is also a level of belief. Although San Jose’s defense has given up goals lately – the Quakes’ last clean sheet was March 31 – the majority of those scores have come on localized, individual breakdowns, rather than systematic pressure being applied by the opposition.
That gives Yallop enough confidence to push forward with a 3-5-2 formation – something he never considered last year, even when San Jose was being shut down for 47 minutes by emergency goalkeeper Mike Magee and a 10-man Galaxy squad in a 0-0 tie at Buck Shaw Stadium.
“We’ve got character and we are showing it, game-in and game-out,” Gordon said. “We never say die with the characters on this team.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com.