SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- Apparently, Alan Gordon didn’t need a preseason to get his last-minute heroics in shape.
Gordon, the 32-year-old veteran who missed most of the San Jose Earthquakes’ preparations over the last six weeks as he recovered from offseason foot surgery, put home a 94th-minute goal to give the Quakes a 1-1 tie against Mexican side Toluca in the teams’ CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal.
The goal, which came just seconds before the final whistle, electrified the home fans among a sellout crowd at Buck Shaw Stadium and kept alive the Quakes’ hopes of advancing past top-seeded Toluca when the teams meet in the second leg next week.
Gordon’s shocker negated a 67th-minute golazo from Toluca’s Raul Nava, whose dipping shot off the full volley left Earthquakes goalkeeper Jon Busch no chance and looked for much of the evening to be the difference-maker.
Gordon’s header from Shea Salinas’ free kick wide on the right wing took one bounce before spinning away from diving Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera, ricocheting off the far post and landing in the back of the net.
The Earthquakes dominated much of the play for the 40 minutes preceding Nava’s shocking strike, but could not break through until Gordon’s last-second heroics.
San Jose captain Chris Wondolowski, the club’s leading all-time scorer, was stopped twice at close range early in the second half by Talavera. The Mexican 'keeper then came up with a huge stop in the 55th minute to deny Wondolowski’s one-timed strike of a well-placed, lengthy cross from Cordell Cato. Wondolowski had another chance in the 61st minute when Steven Lenhart flicked on a header from Brandon Barklage’s throw-in, but his shot went straight at the 'keeper, who finished with five saves.
San Jose saw three opportunities denied in the 79th minute, when Lenhart crashed a header off the crossbar, JJ Koval’s rebound attempt was blocked by defender Edgar Dueñas and Talavera saved a final shot by Gordon.
The Earthquakes were similarly stymied in the 34th minute when Salinas’ corner kick was met with a strong header by Lenhart, only to see a Toluca defender block it on the goal line. Talavera scooped up the rebound while San Jose’s pleas for a handball on the block were ignored by Costa Rican referee Walter Quesada.
Before heading to Mexico, San Jose will first be back at home on Saturday evening when they host Real Salt Lake in their MLS regular season opener.