40 in 40: 40 years of blood, sweat and cheers for longtime fan Brian Holmes

Brian Holmes remembers the hair standing up on the back of his neck at Spartan Stadium. 

Eleven years ago, when the Earthquakes rallied from four down to shock the LA Galaxy in what is considered the greatest  comeback in MLS playoff history, Holmes was on the sideline in his typical support-staff role.  

For 40 years, he’s been there, soaking it all in. He’s seen up-close the heartache and the glory, the former making the latter more pronounced. 

There have been so many great memories and friendships for Holmes, 71, the owner of Soccer International in Santa Clara. 

“It’s just amazing … 40 years. It’s been a big chunk of my life, obviously, and I’ve enjoyed every minute of it,”  he says.

Holmes’ positions with the club have included general manager, assistant GM under Peter Bridgwater, equipment manager and field manager. Last season he worked for Major League Soccer inspecting the field and overseeing presentation on game days. 

In this, the 40th anniversary season of the Earthquakes, consider Holmes a connecting link for much of the club’s blood, sweat and cheers.  

“It’s been an interesting ride, almost like a roller coaster,” he says. “There have been a lot of ups and a few downs as well from 1974 onwards. I’ve thoroughly, thoroughly enjoyed it. I’ve just met some amazingly great people, from the very early days all the way through to right now. I’ve seen players mature and grow and become internationals. I’ve seen management come in and management go, lots of money invested and lots of money lost, especially back in the North American Soccer League days. People like Peter, a great guy; really worked hard to keep soccer going.” 

Holmes saw his first Earthquakes game in 1974. Paul Child, a former striker and a current Earthquakes Hall of Famer, invited him to attend a match. And so it all began. 

“I had met Paul back in England many years before, and he invited me out to the game,” recalls Holmes, who heads the Real Santa Clara soccer club. “We had bumped into each other before the first game, and he invited me in. So Paul has always been one of my favorites - a great goal-scorer, a great personality. He deserves all the credit he gets.” 

In addition to all the memories, Holmes has collected Earthquakes memorabilia through the years, some of which he’s donated to History San Jose. He’s donated jerseys, championship rings and stuff from the MLS Inaugural Game at Spartan Stadium in 1996 – a 1-0 win over D.C. United on an Eric Wynalda goal in front of a crowd of 31,683. 

Holmes ranked his top three Earthquakes team memories:  

* No. 1, the comeback from four down to stun the Galaxy 5-4 on aggregate in the first round of the playoffs, in 2003.
* No. 2, the club’s first MLS Cup championship on a 2-1 win over the Galaxy in overtime in Columbus, in 2001.
* No. 3, the Quakes’ second MLS Cup championship, on a 4-2 win over the Chicago Fire in 2003. 

Holmes talks about the 2003 comeback win over the Galaxy as if it happened just yesterday. It still seems heaven-sent. The Galaxy acted as if they’d already won after scoring their second goal at Spartan Stadium. 

“I’m standing at the halfway line next to the fourth official,” he recalls . “They’ve just scored their second goal in the first half, so they’re now 4 up. I look on the bench and they’re all jumping up and down and screaming and yelling, and saying ‘Ah, this team.’ They’re bad-mouthing the Quakes, and people like Cobi Jones are showing off. It was kind of like, ‘Ah, I hate you guys.’ Unfortunately, I’m in a position where I can’t say that. I can’t show it. I’ve got to bottle it up inside because I’m watching. 

 “I’m thinking, ‘I hate you guys for what you’re doing right now, embarrassing us in front of our own fans,’ but then the team came back, and I don’t know, the crowd, it was a packed stadium. I still remember the feeling. The back of my neck was tingling. The hairs were standing up. The noise, even before we got the winning goal, was just unbelievable. It was vibrating around. It was one of those once-in-lifetime things. It’s hard to describe, but you just had the feeling that something fantastic was happening, and it did happen.” 

Of the MLS Cup win in Columbus, Holmes calls the experience “unbelievable.” He was working for the league that day helping out on the field, and when the Earthquakes were on the victory stand to accept the trophy, his job was to blow all the confetti up in the air.  

“That was kind of cool,” he says. “Landon Donovan had met me years before when he was 17. Great kid. Great guy. I love him dearly. When he got off the stage, he walked over and took his medal off and gave it to me. It was awesome. And then, later on after the game, he gave me his jersey. I contacted MLS and asked them to send me another medal to give to Landon because he’d given me his, which I thought was unbelievably nice.” 

Of the second Quakes’ MLS Cup championship, Holmes liked the offensive-minded nature of the team’s exciting win over Chicago. 

“That was a great game. The goalkeeper (Pat Onstad) saving a penalty. That was great. … We did win it, but Chicago played a great part to make it a great game because most finals are pretty drab, but that was a wide-open attacking game. Six goals, how often do you see that in a one-off championship game?” 

 Currently, Holmes runs five teams with Real Santa Clara, which is in its landmark 30th year. His players on the over-60-year-old team started out with him at the over-35 level and never left. 

Holmes seems 71 years young, even though a recent knee replacement surgery has slowed his pace a bit.

“I enjoy my life,” he says. “I’m very lucky. I’ve been doing something I enjoy as far as a business. I’m lucky that I’ve got a lot of friends. I’ve got my own club, and I enjoy being around them on Sundays, and working for MLS. Working Quakes games are a blast as well. … I’m one of those kinds of guys ...  I wake up in the morning, I’m glad to be here.” 

- Richter Media



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