When Luke Mulholland scored his first career goal four minutes into first half stoppage time, Real Salt Lake appeared to have their game in Santa Clara under control. By now, however, we know: Against the Earthquakes, appearances are too untrustworthy to be deceive. A lead in San Jose isn’t a lead at all. It’s a target.
Over Saturday’s final 20 minutes at Buck Shaw Stadium, San Jose did what they do best. They hit that target, though this time it wasn’t Chris Wondolowski, Alan Gordon, or Steven Lenhart – the trio we’re used to see convert penalty into Earthquakes results. Tonight’s Goonie came out of defense, with Honduran international Victor Bernardez scoring in the 75th and 95th minutes to give San Jose a 3-3 draw with Real Salt Lake.
Saturday’s result would have been ridiculous if wasn’t so utterly predictable see it coming. With the fifth minute of extra time reaching its final moments, San Jose’s attackers sent a pair of crosses bouncing off the Real Salt Lake players that’d crowded into Nick Rimando’s six-yard box. When one of their attempts bounced out to Bernandez (standing just outside the six-yard box), you couldn’t help but look to the back to the net before the defender even struck his shot. Within microseconds, a ball fired into the left of goal flexed Nick Rimando’s net, giving San Jose a typical, improbable draw.
Very early on, the night looked headed for a better fate, with Wondolowski’s 80th career MLS goal beating Rimando in the sixth minute. For the rest of the half, however, it was all RSL, with Kyle Beckerman, Joao Plata, and Mulholland staking the visitors to a two-goal lead at halftime. Beckerman’s goal was particularly noteworthy, with the U.S. international pulling back Wondolowski’s opener with a left-footed blast from well above the arch.
Two years ago, as the Earthquakes began their ascend toward a Supporters’ Shield, San Jose also got two late goals against Real Salt Lake, taking advantage of a nine-man team with stoppage time tallies from Simon Dawkins and Wondolowski. Tonight’s goals gave San Jose one point instead of the three they earned that day, but the result still carried the spirit of that magical, inexplicable 2012 campaign. To this date, does anybody really know how San Jose won the Supporters’ Shield?
Between Saturday night and Tuesday’s comeback against Toluca, San Jose has starting its season with two more Goonie moments. And against two of the toughest opponents it will face this season, San Jose also has two draws. We may not be able to explain why San Jose has so such success near the final whistle, but we know it when we see it.