SANDY, UT - JUNE 23: Nat Borchers #6 of Real Salt Lake heads the ball around Alan Gordon #16 of the San Jose Earthquakes during the second half of an MLS soccer game June 23, 2012 at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. San Jose Earthquakes beat Real Salt Lake 2-1. (Photo by George Frey/Getty Images)
This scenario is becoming all too familiar for those following San Jose Earthquakes this season.
Quakes play a good game in the first 75 minutes of the match, sometimes conceding a goal, other times not. They run hard, they play a physical game and they battle.
Alan Gordon comes on as a substitute in the second half and while the other team begins to wear out, the Quakes switch gears and begin playing like the game just started.
This scenario has happened time and time again this season, and was on full display once more, this time at Rio Tinto Stadium in Utah where local Real Salt Lake were hosting San Jose's club.
RSL dominated majority of the game, but it was the Quakes that came away with a late game 2-1 victory.
The way the game went, the score was perhaps a bit unfair. Real had more attempts on goal (19 vs 12), more shots on target (7 vs 6), and dominated the ball possession (60.1%). They had more scoring chances too.
Home team had more good scoring chances as the game progressed, and none were better than the one by Will Johnson on 57th minute. After few bounces he had the ball in front of an open net, with Jon Busch past him, but out of nowhere came Quakes' defender Jason Hernandez with a last moment tackle to prevent the goal.
Not too long after it was Hernandez again with another memorable save - this time on Real's Alvaro Saborio who was trying to beat Busch with a header. This he did, but standing on the goal line was Hernandez who put it away with his head.
Hernandez and the players from both teams did not know how to react to another shocking save by the Quakes defender, so they simply laughed.
Speaking after the game, Hernandez explained why he was there in those moments -
"A lot of times there's a scramble in the box and Busch gets caught out trying to make a play and in training, I've been known to just creep in behind him and just try to be that last line of defense. In years past, I've had one or two go my way and that's just something that's natural for me. I get back there and just try to keep the ball out of the net and, luckily, it came right to me and I was fortunate enough to hit it over."
And then came Alan Gordon's time.
First he opened the score in the game on the 75th minute, capitalizing on the missed step by Nat Borchers as the ball was bouncing, thus giving Gordon room and time to put header past Rimando. This was Gordon's fifth goal of the season - all of them scored while coming into the game as a substitute (highest in the MLS).
"Well that's Alan for you, he is a terrific player," said Quakes head coach Frank Yallop after the game. "He is just kind of getting back to match fitness, but that is exactly his role on this team, to come in late and to make an impact. He has great character and the guys love having him around. He brings some great team spirit and he just has a knack for scoring goals. He has played his role so well this season and especially tonight."
RSL quickly responded with a goal from a close range free kick from Morales who bended the ball into the upper left corner.
But the Quakes knew it was their time, and they regained the lead few minutes later. The goal happened after a long throw in to Gordon (who else?), who passed it to Chris Wondolowski in front of the net. Top striker in the MLS did not miss, and scored his 13th MLS goal this season. Once again, the Quakes did not give up and did not want to settle down, even after giving up a tying goal.
"I think that's just the mentality we came in with; we're always going to try to get three points," said Wondolowski. "I think a lot of times, especially coming into Rio Tinto, teams would be content with just trying to come away with a 0-0 tie. We try to go out there and press the game, play our game, but we never give up - like the Goonies say, 'never say die.' It's fun to be a part of."
Whatever San Jose Earthquakes are doing this season to remain alert and dominating in the last 15 minutes of the game is working. They proved once again that it is costly to fall asleep against them during that stretch, and that they are perhaps the fittest team in the league this season.
After winning both games on the road this week, the Quakes are returning to Bay Area, where they will play Seattle Sounders in US Open Cup on Tuesday at Kezar Stadium.