SANTA CLARA — After taking a year off, it looks like the Goonies are back.
Photos by Scot Tucker/SFBay
San Jose Earthquakes striker Alan Gordon played the hero once again Tuesday night, scoring a game-tying header deep into stoppage time to give the Quakes a 1-1 draw in their home opening CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal against Deportivo Toluca FC.
San Jose appeared destined for heartbreaking defeat after a wonder strike from Toluca forward Raul Nava put the Mexican side up 1-0 in the 68th minute.
The goal came against the run of play, as the Earthquakes spent most of the second half on Toluca’s side, with multiple goal scoring opportunities squandered.
Gordon, who entered the game in the 73rd minute, got a running start into the box and whipped his head on the end of a perfect set piece cross by winger Shea Salinas.
Gordon’s momentum allowed him to powerfully head the ball into the back of the net, leaving Toluca keeper Alfredo Talavera flat-footed.
Gordon — no stranger to scoring in stoppage time — laughed how easily he was able to get into the box:
“You don’t really usually get runs like that in the MLS, you’re normally getting grabbed and pulled. So I was a little surprised to be untouched. It was great, it’s a new feeling.”
After allowing Toluca to begin the game with nearly four minutes of uncontested possession, the Quakes began to press high up the pitch, pressuring Toluca on the ball and feeding striker Chris Wondolowski.
Wondolowski’s ability to hold up play and distribute out wide allowed the Earthquakes to look just as likely to score as the heavily-favored Mexican side.
After a relatively equal first 45, the Earthquakes dominated the second half relying on right winger Cordell Cato, whose sheer speed down the right flank caused all sorts of problems for Toluca.
Cato gave a man of the match performance, putting multiple crosses into the box that could have and should have resulted in goals.
As San Jose began to peak, a botched clearance from center-back Jason Hernandez — filling in for suspended US international Clarence Goodson — led to an absolute cracker of a volley from Raul Nava from about 10 yards outside the box.
San Jose goalkeeper John Busch could only watch helplessly as the net bulged behind him.
Gordon’s equalizer may have salvaged the Earthquakes Champions League hopes, as they now face a very difficult return fixture in Mexico next week.
Earthquakes Coach Mark Watson talked about the teams performance after the match and the frustration of so many missed chances:
“I thought we deserved better over the course of 90 minutes considering the chances that were created. It was just one of those nights, I feel for the guys cause I thought we deserved more. We tried to win the game, that was our objective. We know it’s going to be tough going down to Toluca.”
On goal scorer Alan Gordon’s performance:
“I’m not surprised. He’s still not fully match fit but, Alan’s the type of guy who can join the game at any moment. Strong guy….very dangerous when balls get in the box. I thought he had a real impact on the game when he came in.”
Chris Wondolowski also wasn’t surprised by his strike partners impact:
“He’s amazing. The reason it’s not surprising is the amount of work he puts into it, behind the scenes. In the gym, after practice, he is one of the hardest working guys there is.”
Toluca manager Jose Cardozo was less than impressed with the Earthquakes performance, claiming that his side played better and deserved to win:
“I think our team was superior to our rival. We had a team that was playing football and they had a team that was just shooting at the goal area. The referee should’ve stopped the game at four minutes stoppage time. The goal was score 30 seconds after that.”
Chris Wondolowski didn’t necessarily agree with the opposing manager’s assessment of his teams play:
“Truthfully honest, if you watched that game and you thought they outplayed us … (shakes head) If you look at the stats, look at our shots, look at our chances, I thought we played really well. If I finish those two chances before they score, it finishes with a whole different outcome.”
The Quakes begin regular season MLS play Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara hosting Real Salt Lake (1-0-0).
CCL play continues next Wednesday when the Quakes visit Toluca for the second leg of the quarterfinals at Estadio Nemesio Díez.