(Palo Alto) For Earthquakes fans, it was a night that dreams are made of.
In front of a sellout crowd and a national TV audience, the San Jose Earthquakes rallied from a 3-1 deficit to take a thrilling 4-3 game from the LA Galaxy, extending their lead atop the MLS standings. After goals from Victor Bernardez and Sam Cronin brought the game level, Chris Wondolowski capped the comeback with a clever back heel off a San Jose corner kick, his league leading 14th goal and 7th game winner of the season.
“We’ve done it all year. I like that we’re able to come back,” San Jose coach Frank Yallop said. “I can’t say enough about the fellas that we have on the squad. They never seem to quit.”
San Jose took the lead in the 7th minute, when Rafael Baca found Marvin Chavez with room on the right wing, and Chavez cut inside and let fly from 25 yards. LA goalkeeper Josh Saunders could only slap away the swerving shot, and the rebound fell to Steven Lenhart for an easy tap in.
LA tied the score at 1-1 at the half hour mark through a David Beckham free kick, an unstoppable 22 yarder over the wall and into the top left corner of the goal.
Five minutes later, the Galaxy took the lead, with a little help from the San Jose defense. A pass from Juninho found Hector Jimenez with room to run inside the penalty area. From the right side, Jimenez sent in a crossing pass that deflected off Jason Hernandez and into the San Jose goal.
In the 41st minute, Jason Hernandez also was integral to the third LA goal, when he tried an ill-advised pass back to goalkeeper Jon Busch. Mike McGee stole the ball, fed Jimenez on the right wing, and Jimenez centered it for Donovan. From 10 yards out, Donovan didn’t miss, scoring his sixth of the season to extend the Galaxy’s lead to 3-1.
San Jose pulled one back in the 44th minute. A corner kick from Marvin Chavez found Victor Bernardez at the near post, eight yards from goal. Bernardez’ hit it first time, a right footer that beat Saunders cleanly inside the far post.
“That was a huge goal,” Chris Wondolowski said. “It gave us a huge morale boost right before halftime. We came in (to the locker room) and we believed that we were going to keep it going. Great goal by Victor.”
San Jose had to make one change at intermission, bringing in David Bingham to replace Jon Busch in goal. “Busch got hit in the eye, his left eye was closing,” Yallop said. “It was scratched, pretty sore.” Bingham filled in nicely, shutting out LA the rest of the way.
Meanwhile, the San Jose comeback continued. Two minutes after intermission Sam Cronin tied the game at 3-3. A long ball from right back Steven Beitashour skipped through the defense and hit Cronin in stride and he raced into the penalty area. Cronin slid home a shot from 15 yards, for his first goal of the year.
The game winner came in the 61st minute, off a Marvin Chavez corner kick. Ramiro Corrales flicked it on to Wondolowski in front of goal, and Wondo was able to back heel it into the net for a 4-3 Earthquakes lead.
“Great finish,” Yallop said. “Wondo’s one of the most elusive strikers in the league. He knows how to time his runs to get on the end of crosses. He scored a very similar goal in Salt Lake to win it, and he scores the same tonight to win it here.“
There was still plenty of work left to do to seal the win for San Jose. In the 74th minute, David Beckham split the San Jose defense and had an open shot from 15 yards out. David Bingham got just enough of a touch to steer it around the far post.
Ten minutes later, a David Beckham corner kick found Sean Franklin open 15 yards from goal. Franklin’s shot deflected off a San Jose defender and had the entire LA side calling for hand ball, but no penalty was given. LA got the ball back and within seconds Robbie Keane was teeing one up for David Lopes near the penalty spot. Sam Cronin deflected the shot slightly, but it sailed on goal, forcing Bingham to push it off the cross bar before the San Jose defense could scramble it away.
In stoppage time a 25 yarder from Juninho had Bingham diving to his right to knock it away and preserve the victory.
“I liked our intensity. I also liked how everyone had each other’s back,” Chris Wondolowski said. He also liked the support of the record crowd. “50,000 people yelling and screaming, going crazy from minute one, it’s a big driving force and it keeps you going. It gives you that extra little boost.”
“I think the club will be happy with tonight,” Yallop said. “Seven goals, we come out with a win. We played entertaining stuff, so did LA. It was a great game.”
With three straight wins in MLS play, San Jose now stands at 11-3-3, the best record in the league. As the biggest stand-alone crowd in the club’s history enjoyed the post-game firework show, the Earthquakes started getting ready for a trip to Portland, and more fireworks next Tuesday against the Timbers.
(Photo: Joe Nuxoll, centerlinesoccer.com)
San Jose Earthquakes (11-3-3) vs. LA Galaxy (6-9-2)
June 30, 2012 — Stanford Stadium
Scoring Summary: SJ — Steven Lenhart (unassisted) 7; LA — David Beckham (unassisted) 31; LA — Own Goal (Jason Hernandez) 36; LA — Landon Donovan (Hector Jimenez, Mike Magee) 41; SJ — Victor Bernardez (Marvin Chavez) 44; SJ — Sam Cronin (Steven Beitashour) 47; SJ — Chris Wondolowski (Ramiro Corrales, Marvin Chavez) 61.
Misconduct Summary: LA — Juninho (caution) 24; SJ — Ramiro Corrales (caution) 27; SJ — Steven Lenhart (caution) 45+2; SJ — Victor Bernardez (caution) 45+6; LA — David Lopes Junior (caution) 86; LA — David Beckham (caution) 90+2.
San Jose Earthquakes — Jon Busch (David Bingham 46), Steven Beitashour, Victor Bernardez, Jason Hernandez, Justin Morrow, Marvin Chavez (Khari Stephenson 88), Sam Cronin, Rafael Baca, Ramiro Corrales, Chris Wondolowski, Steven Lenhart (Alan Gordon 68).
Statistics: Total Shots: 19; Shots on Goal: 9; Saves: 3; Fouls: 10; Offside: 5; Corner Kicks: 9.
LA Galaxy — Josh Saunders, Sean Franklin, A.J. DeLaGarza, David Junior Lopes, Todd Dunivant (Bryan Gaul 83), Hector Jimenez (Marcelo Savas 81), David Beckham, Juninho, Mike Magee (Chad Barrett 74), Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane.
Statistics: Total Shots: 14; Shots on Goal: 5; Saves: 5; Fouls: 9; Offside: 0; Corner Kicks: 8.