By all accounts, 2020 hasn’t been easy on anyone.
Many industries, including sports, have been devastated by COVID-19 and the damage done may very well takes years to fully undo. But as the famous quote goes, “Adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”
Nothing has been able to keep the San Jose Earthquakes down. While others around MLS were hosting full-team training sessions, the Quakes were still barred from even having individual player workouts within Santa Clara County. While other teams were capable of waking up in their own beds and preparing for the season at their own training facility, the Quakes had to be the first ones to travel to the Orlando bubble, away from their families, just to get back on the field as a group.
After three straight wins at the MLS is Back Tournament and reaching the Quarterfinals, the Quakes returned home to a (slightly) less restrictive training policy. They were then met with a record-setting heat wave and smoke from a number of local wildfires that made maintaining a consistent training schedule impossible.
But wait, there’s more.
Every other team in MLS played their first match post-Orlando by Aug. 23. The Earthquakes didn’t have a scheduled match until Aug. 26, which was ultimately postponed shortly prior to kickoff as part of a protest against racial injustice. The delayed start and rescheduled match (Sept. 16) gave San Jose the most congested scheduled in MLS with a match every four days on average.
From Aug. 29 to Sept. 23, the Quakes went 0-5-3 with a -21 GD, losing four matches by at least four goals. As the team searched for answers in this month of horrors, on and off the field, a road match with LAFC – a team San Jose had never beaten – was looming. The Quakes fought back from a 1-0 halftime deficit to secure their first win post-Orlando and raise a few eyebrows around the league.
That match was the first of three straight wins for a team that had suddenly found their magic once again. The offense scored timely goals, the defense didn’t let mistakes compound, substitutes were adding a spark, and the team as a whole was hitting its stride.
All clear skies from here on out, right? Wrong.
With two matches remaining, San Jose’s upcoming opponent, LAFC, had three players test positive for COVID-19, putting the season’s penultimate game in jeopardy. Everybody began running the scenarios about whether or not it would be beneficial to cancel the match outright given time constraints. To the surprise of many, the match was ultimately rescheduled less than 24 hours prior to the new kickoff time. San Jose defeated LAFC once again and punched their ticket to the postseason in style.
“Our team is made for 2020,” said captain Chris Wondolowski after that match. “2020 is crazy. We’re mayhem. That’s what our team is made for. It’s why we love it.”
And while this season seems like it’s been going on forever, let’s not forget it all started with an Oswaldo Alanis stoppage-time equalizer way back on Feb. 29. Yes, that happened this year.
Fourteen of the Quakes’ 30 points in 2020, nearly half, were earned from losing positions. Additionally, four of the club’s eight wins were come-from-behind victories. Both of those marks are league highs this season.
San Jose has a long history with this never-say-die spirit. In 2012, coming off a losing season the year before, the Earthquakes had one late goal after another to win the coveted Supporters’ Shield with a 19-6-9 record, including 10 one-goal wins. The team scored a league-high 72 goals, 13 more than any other team. You can watch all 72 goals below (assuming you have enough time in your day).
In the 2003 Western Conference Semifinals, the Quakes were down 4-0 on aggregate to the LA Galaxy before miraculously scoring five unanswered goals. That win propelled the club to its second MLS Cup title in three years.
San Jose is the underdog once again on Sunday as the away team vs. the top-seed Sporting Kansas City and head coach Matias Almeyda and Co. would certainly not have it any other way.
The Round One playoff match is scheduled for Sunday, Nov. 22 at 1 p.m., presented by Intermedia Cloud Communications. The match will be broadcast live on FS1/Fox Deportes, KNBR 1050 and 1370 KZSF.