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Never say die: San Jose Earthquakes 2, Toronto FC 2

Alanis’ late strike salvages result in season opener.

MLS: Toronto FC at San Jose Earthquakes Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

It may have been Oswaldo Alanis’ first game with the San Jose Earthquakes, but he already wrote his name in late-game heroics in the club’s history, as he scored a free kick from an acute angle on the game’s final kick to draw Toronto FC 2-2 at Earthquakes Stadium on Saturday to open the 2020 MLS regular season.

TFC took a 2-0 lead by just before the hour mark, while San Jose quickly responded after Toronto’s second goal. It looked like the game was destined to be a disappointing defeat for the Quakes, but Alanis’ heroics ensured the team and fans would walk away happy as they completed the comeback to split the points on the day.

Matias Almeyda opted to start Andy Rios and Danny Hoesen on the day, over Chris Wondolowski, while midfielder Judson began on the bench. Nick Lima started at left back, with Marcos Lopez not even on the bench on the day.

Lima was the first to test Toronto goalkeeper Quentin Westberg, his diagonal effort after a nice stepover to create room led to the TFC player going full stretch to deny the Quakes man in the 27th minute.

A penalty was called in the 38th minute in Toronto’s favor off a corner kick, with Andy Rios wrapping up Jozy Altidore on the set piece as the pair hit the deck. Two minutes later, Alejandro Pozuelo calmly converted the penalty kick to make it 1-0 to the visiting side.

Tsubasa Endoh nearly doubled Toronto’s lead a few minutes after the break, his shot clanging off the crossbar before sailing over the goal, but substitute Richie Laryea hit the insurance tally in the 51st minute, Daniel Vega’s kick save off another Endoh shot falling right into Laryea’s path and he buried it authoritatively.

But San Jose woke up and scored their first goal in the next two minutes, Rios with an acrobatic finish off Cristian Espinosa’s diagonal cross into the box to reduce the deficit and give the Quakes some hope.

The teams traded spells of possession after that, but the Earthquakes tried to push for an equalizer while TFC sat deeper to try and preserve the win.

It looked like TFC’s strategy would pay off, but Alanis had the last laugh, his goal deep in the corner directly off a free kick was a “near-olimpico” and seemed to take Westberg completely by surprise.

It was a dream start for the Mexican, who don’t forget, is a center back.

All in all, for it being the first game of the season there was certainly rust, on both sides, and the Quakes were fortunate to claw their way back for a result. At the same time, hitting a walk-off equalizer to take a loss to a draw is about the best feeling aside from actually winning, and we know this team has plenty of experience in late-game heroics over the years. While the quality of play itself was not quite at the level, getting a draw to start things off can hopefully keep some pressure off while Almeyda continues to get the group up to full fitness and form.

The Quakes will be back in action next Saturday as they host Minnesota United at Earthquakes Stadium.

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