It was April 6th, 1996 and the San Jose Earthquakes, then known as the San Jose Clash, faced DC United in the inaugural game of Major League Soccer. MLS threw a party, equipped with pop-up card invitations and fireworks and even flew out then-FIFA president Joao Havelange for the occasion.
Come gametime, MLS officials held their breath. For eighty-seven long minutes, the game went scoreless, until Eric Wynalda broke down the left with two minutes to go and scored an historic goal to give the Clash a 1-0 victory.
Twenty years on, the Quakes organized a throwback celebration with appearances from the original lineup and Clash-inspired numbers on their kits. This time, however, DC United took an early lead that left the Quakes shellshocked. Again, Quakes fans were left biting their nails until substitute Adam Jahn came up late on to equalize for the home side and resurrect the same magic of that game in 1996.
The result leaves them undefeated in three home matches so far this season and keeps DC stranded at the bottom of the table without a win. Although the Quakes dominated possession with a free-flowing midfield in stark contrast to their 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy two weeks ago, DC were dangerous on the break and nipped an early goal in a smash-and-grab style.
“I thought even at halftime we were probably good for a couple goals, and to come in with nothing, down, was a little bit mind-boggling,” said Quakes coach Dominic Kinnear. “We were kind of shaking our heads as to how that happened. But they took their chance well and we let them off the hook with our finishing. We were creating a lot of chances. I just told the guys ‘keep the same energy, we’re going to get chances, keep fighting for second balls dropping at midfield’ and I thought the effort tonight was great.”
In the third minute, Amarikwa bundled Quintero’s cross from the left just over and Wondo cushioned Thompson’s cross back across goal moments later. The ball trickled inches past Garcia, but the early penetration was promising.
With three creative attacking midfielders in the lineup in Quintero, Garcia and Thompson, their free-flowing midfield contrasted starkly with their 3-1 loss to the LA Galaxy two weeks ago, although it was occasionally out of sorts with all the criss-crossing runs.
Garcia lofted a lovely diagonal ball over the top for Quintero in the fifth minute, who broke away down the right with the DC defense in shambles, but the Panamanian cut back under pressure and the move fizzled away.
Eighteen minutes in, Garcia received the ball in a tight pocket of space down the right wing and faked to the byline, taking his defender with him. The midfielder cut back into the middle and whipped a curling effort inches wide of the far post.
Wondo combined with Amarikwa twenty-four minutes in and slipped a pass in down the right side of the box for Amarikwa to run onto. The forward arrowed a shot straight at DC keeper Travis Worra and sliced the rebound just high and wide form a tight angle.
The Quakes were a compact defensive unit, bringing almost all of their men back behind the ball, but DC were dangerous on the break and snatched a surprise opener near the half-hour mark. Lamar Neagle got in behind Wynne down the right and curled a brilliant cross into the middle, where Patrick Nyarko rose up unmarked to power a towering header past a hapless David Bingham.
It was a punch in the gut; this wasn’t a part of a script.
DC nearly had another five minutes from halftime, when Jared Jeffrey dispossessed Alashe in the middle and put Fabian Espindola in down the left channel. The Argentine forward dragged a low effort just wide of the right hand post.
Olsen’s men went into the half with seven shots to the Quakes’ five, although the stats fail to reflect the home side’s liveliness up top. All that was missing was the final touch.
On the other side of the half, Quintero did well to beat his defender down the left, but with Amarikwa and Wondo wide open, the Panamanian midfielder cut back a weak cross along the ground and Worra pounced on the ball. Amarikwa came close soon afterwards, turning on his man in the fifty-first minute and rifling a shot just over the crossbar from the edge of the box.
At the other end of the pitch, Espindola cut into the middle on the break and Imperiale scythed the forward down with a poor tackle. Neagle curled a looping effort onto the crossbar and over from the resulting free-kick.
On fifty-seven minutes, Thompson got the ball in the middle of the box with a small pocket of space, but couldn’t muscle off his defender and the ball trickled towards Worra.
Yet the Quakes didn’t really begin their final push until Kinnear brought on Shea Salinas for Quintero to inject pace into the team’s attack. His presence almost immediately breathed life back into the team, and soon after coming on the winger pulled a low effort on target.
With twelve minutes to go, Salinas cut a low cross towards the front post, where Wondo spun on his marker with a neat first touch and saw a poked effort blocked by Worra.
What had been an open, free-flowing game became a “slug fest” as the Quakes pushed forward and DC retreated to their own box.
The breakthrough finally came in the eighty-seventh minute when Salinas crossed low for Jahn at the near post. The target man wrapped his foot around a lovely volley and knew it was into the back of the net the minute it came off his boot.
“When you are a sub, you want to come in and change the game. It was a great opportunity to go in and make something happen. That’s what the coaches told me, ‘Go in and score a goal,’” said Jahn.
The Quakes nearly completed the comeback late in stoppage time as Wondo bundled the ball just wide of the post from Marvell Wynne’s long throw, but it wasn’t meant to be for the Quakes. A lot has changed in twenty years in MLS but the Quakes’ fighting spirit has remained just the same.