San Jose: a Team That Refuses to DieSan Jose Earthquakes refuse to quit and rattle FC Dallas in 3-3 tie
by Luke James | Monday, October 01, 2012
FC Dallas came to California on Saturday night desperate for three points and looking to clinch a place in the playoffs. Dallas faced a San Jose Earthquakes side that’s been flying high atop the Western Conference.
But as Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop pointed out, how good teams are in this league is not necessarily denoted by their position in the standings. Make no mistake FC Dallas is a good team. What they couldn't have foreseen in any tactical meeting or training drill was that in the Quakes they were facing ... (cue the cinematic music) ... “The Team That Refused To Die!”
This season, Earthquakes have won or tied 12 games in the 82nd minute or later, scoring a league record nine goals in second-half stoppage time.
Saturday night was no different, as the Earthquakes never let Dallas get too far ahead, and forced a 3-3 result.
In the first half, FC Dallas's drive and determination succeeded in throwing San Jose off its usual rhythm. It came as something of a relief to the 10,744 in attendance when in the 24th minute Chris Wondolowski stepped over the ball, allowing it to roll to Alan Gordon, who buried it for his career-high 13th goal of the season.
But after a couple of missed tackles, FC Dallas' Panamanian international Blas Perez tied the game in the 37th minute.
The game was tied at the break, when there were inductions into the Earthquakes Hall of Fame. The first inductee was original club owner Milan Mandaric, who came to San Jose from Yugoslavia in 1969, pioneered the foundation of Silicon Valley and, in 1974, founded the team.
The second inductee was Paul Child, of Birmingham, England, who came to the NASL on loan from Aston Villa. He joined the Earthquakes in 1974 and led the league that year with 15 goals and six assists. He currently coaches a youth team composed of young refugees, BW United, in suburban Pittsburgh.
Also present were members of the original 1974-79 team that included players who had faced the likes of Pele, Franz Beckenbauer and George Best. After the ceremony, they kicked autographed balls into the crowd.
Dallas continued to press the Quakes in the second half and only Sam Cronin's tireless efforts saved San Jose from entirely surrendering midfield.
In the 50th minute, Earthquakes midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy was stretchered off with a knee injury and Yallop decided to replace him with striker Steven Lenhart.
The Earthquakes were increasingly forced to play the long ball forward and this left them susceptible to fast breaking counter attacks. In the 72nd minute, Blas Perez doubled his tally with a glancing header to make it 2-1 Dallas.
In the 82nd minute, it was substitute Lenhart, popularly known for his wacky blonde hair, who did his famous Lazarus act and dragged San Jose back from the dead. He latched onto a header from Alan Gordon and buried the ball with a left foot shot from just outside the 18-yard box.
But in the 88th minute, Dallas must have thought surely it’d found a way to beat “The Team That Refused to Die” when defender Matt Hedges managed to scramble a loose ball into the net for his third goal of the season.
When things are not going well for San Jose, you won't see the team standing in different parts of the field with players waving their arms and blaming each other. Instead, they go into a good old- fashioned huddle, arms around each other’s shoulders, and dig down deep into the team spirit. Then, they go out and score goals.
The team did this again Saturday night.
The Earthquakes dragged themselves up by the scruffs of their jersey necks and threw everything, including the kitchen sink, at Dallas during stoppage time.
Jon Busch made a brilliant last gasp save to keep the Quakes hopes alive in the 92nd minute. Three minutes later, a familiar mop of corkscrew blonde hair rose above the Dallas defense right in front of goal and Lenhart nodded home the equalizer.
You'd think the Buck Shaw crowd was used to going bananas in the dying seconds, but you could no more adequately describe the delirious eruption in the stadium when Lenhart's ball hit the back of the net than you could explain how it is that a team can so consistently tie or win games in the dying seconds.
I spoke to Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop after the game and he told me:
"Sam Cronin has been a great partnership all year with Rafa (Rafael Baca) and I thought he played really well,” he said. “I thought we were off our game a little bit defensively obviously conceding three goals, but for us to keep going and fighting like we do to get that goal at the end I think we deserved it."
San Jose clearly knows how to win, as it sits at the top of the Western Conference nine-points ahead of Real Salt Lake. But these late tied games are starting to unleash feelings similar to those experienced with a win.
This team is reminding their fans that heart, determination and last-gasp equalizers are every bit as capable of generating emotion as winning. The points are important, but with the way the Earthquakes play soccer, so is courage and heart.
GAMES NOTES: The San Jose Earthquakes are the first team since the Colorado Rapids in 2002 to have three players with 10 or more goals in a single season – Wondolowski (22), Gordon (13) and Lenhart (10).
NEXT UP: The Earthquakes return to action on Saturday Oct. 6 in Colorado against the Colorado Rapids. Kickoff is at 7:30 PST.