The first game of San Jose’s season gave fans reason to believe 2012 is within reach, even if the result didn’t come in Major League Soccer. Opening their season in CONCACAF Champions League, the Earthquakes delivered the type of late goal that became the trademark of their 2012 Supporters’ Shield-winning campaign, finally breaking through in stoppage time to earn a 1-1 result with visiting Toluca.
The result sends the teams’ Champions League quarterfinal back to Mexico for next week’s second leg, though the away goals edge the Diablos Rojos hold gives Liga MX’s second place team a slight edge before next Wednesday’s kickoff.
The Red Devils struck first in the second half when Jason Hernandez’s botched attempt to play a long ball out of the Toluca half allowed Raul Nava to run onto a 67th minute volley from outside the penalty area. Beating Jon Busch high into the left side of goal, the Nava gave Toluca a key away goal, leaving San Jose to rue the suspension of Clarence Goodson.
Had the match finished 1-0, the scoreline would have been harsh on a San Jose team that saw three close calls nearly produce an equalizer. Yet come the end of regulation, José Cardozo’s team looked set to take a potentially decisive lead back to Mexico.
In the 95th minute, however, San Jose had another reason to believe Goonies never die, with a Alan Gordon header on one of the match’s final touches giving the Earthquakes a 1-1 result.
The draw ran San Jose’s home unbeaten streak to 20 games but also left Mark Watson’s team with a tough task next week at the Estadio Nemesio Díez. Though Cardozo had indicated his team would take the quarterfinal’s first leg seriously, a number of key players were left out of the staring XI. Paraguayan Paolo Da Silva, a defender who leads the team in minutes over Liga MX’s two tournaments, started on the bench, with leading goal scorer Pablo Velazquez never getting out of his warm ups. Isaac Brizuela was also left out of the first XI, though Cardozo brought his second-leading scorer on for Edgar Benítez shortly into the second half.
San Jose may have outplayed their guests, but Toluca will likely be better next week. If the Earthquakes are back to their 2012 selves, however, fans have reason to hope Watson’s team can pull off the miraculous in Mexico. At least, they can take solace knowing that Goonies have proven very difficult to kill.