The San Jose Earthquakes were out of the MLS playoffs with ten minutes to go in the regular season. Given the league-wide results, the Quakes needed a victory over Minnesota United to secure sixth place in the Western Conference, and Francisco Calvo’s eighty-first-minute equalizer for Minnesota seriously threatened to derail the home side’s season.
The defender had risen at the far post to convert an unlikely header from a corner, drawing the game level 2-2. Quakes defender Florian Jungwirth had tried to heroically save the header off the line but could only tip it onto the crossbar and in. At that moment, he could only think one thing: “Just eff you cee kay.”
Marco Ureña shared in the exasperation on the bench. “It’s frustration, you can’t do anything on the bench,” he said. “The last three games on the bench have been really tough for me…today I didn’t really expect to get into the game.”
However, Chris Leitch called upon the Costa Rican after Minnesota’s equalizer to give the Quakes extra ammunition up top as they sought a late winner. At that point, tactics had been thrown out the window. Ureña knew what had to be done. “I didn’t want to listen to anything,” he said. “What can they tell me with two minutes to go? There’s nothing they can tell me. I just wanted to make the change as quickly as [possible] and get onto the field.”
Ureña joined Wondolowski and Amarikwa up top and centerback Victor Bernardez also camped out in the penalty area as the clock ticked down. Wondolowski knew that the Quakes were crashing out of the playoff hunt — he had checked the scorelines at halftime — but a goal was just not forthcoming.
However, five minutes of added time offered one last opportunity to clinch a playoff berth. “There are no thoughts in your brain anymore,” Jungwirth said of those final moments. “You just go for it and try anything.”
Finally, an opening presented itself in the third minute of stoppage time when Bernardez headed a long-ball directly into the bath of Amarikwa inside the box. From the defense, Jungwirth wasn’t expecting much to be made of the move as the ball fell to Amarikwa’s left foot. “You have to see his left leg in training, it’s really a dead leg,” the German joked.
Yet the striker drilled a blistering effort towards the corner and it was tipped wide by Minnesota goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth at full stretch. The ball fell to Wondolowski at the far post and the United States international was winding up to fire it on goal. However, he pulled up mid-swing and cut the ball back to Ureña.
“[It was] legitimately one of the hardest things do to in my life,” said Wondo. “To be honest, it kind of spun on me and I couldn’t get my feet right. I think if I get my feet right, I’m blasting that. I saw Marco last second.”
The ball fell to Ureña for a simple tap-in but, even then, everything wasn’t as simple as it seemed for the Quakes. The forward slightly scuffed his finish into the path of the diving Minnesota goalkeeper, but benefited from a fortunate deflection by an onrushing defender to guide it into the back of the net and send Avaya Stadium into a frenzy.
“I remember grabbing Marco and I remember falling with him,” said Wondolowski. “I had tears coming down my eyes because there was so much emotion that was pent up.”
Coach Chris Leitch’s post-match celebrations were even rawer. “There wasn’t any emotion left,” he said.