BY ADAM SERRANO
CARSON, Calif. — Alan Gordon scored in stoppage time as the San Jose Earthquakes erased a late two-goal deficit with three unanswered goals to defeat the Los Angeles Galaxy, 3-2, on Wednesday.
After going down due to goals from Hector Jimenez and Mike Magee, San Jose clawed back as Steven Lenhart and Khari Stephenson scored before Gordon's dramatic stoppage time winner. Gordon's goal was the sixth time this season that San Jose had scored in the 88th minute or later — five of those ending in either a win or a tie.
Following yet another dramatic performance, the Earthquakes couldn't help but embrace their role as the comeback kids of MLS.
“We just like to make the game exciting. Goonies never say die," said Lenhart. "I think we are prepared this year. We have put in the work in training and we like each other, we show up every day and we all know we are committing to the 90 minutes, to play together and work for each other. It may not look that pretty but we know we are going to get the most out of our guys at the end of the day.”
Los Angeles flew out of the gate early and needed just three minutes to get on the board. The sequence began as Juninho fired a through-ball into forward Chad Barrett, who ran into the box before laying it off to Jimenez. The second-year midfielder did not miss his opportunity, firing a shot into the back of the Earthquakes' net for his first career MLS goal.
As the match wore on, the Galaxy remained in control, but San Jose continued to press forward for an equalizer, eventually throwing on Gordon at the start of the second half. Then in the 60th minute, the match was turned on its head when Jimenez was given a red card by referee Jair Marrufo for a stud-up challenge on Earthquakes right back Steven Beitashour.
San Jose's man advantage did not prevent the Galaxy from doubling their lead as David Beckham-led counterattack found Magee, who scored Los Angeles' second goal of the match. However, San Jose would not go quietly as they broke the Galaxy’s shutout bid just three minutes later when Lenhart finished a diving header from a Marvin Chavez corner.
From there things went south for the Galaxy as Beckham was whistled for a handball in the 72nd minute after a shot from Jason Hernandez. Just a minute later, Stephenson stepped up and pushed the penalty past Perk for the tie. The score level, San Jose continued their pressure and found the winning goal in the fourth minute of stoppage time as Gordon headed in a bouncing cross from Hernandez for the game winner.
"I just was following up the play, I think there may have been a little bit of hesitation on their part and I was just seeing the play through," said Gordon. "They hesitated, I didn’t, I finished it. Forwards get lucky sometimes, I got lucky, who cares, I put it in, end of story period."
The result extended the Galaxy's win-less streak to six games and gave the defending MLS Cup champions their eighth loss in all competitions in the 2012 season equaling the club's mark for the entire 2011 campaign. Despite a stellar first half — perhaps their best of the season — the club was stunned by the turn of events.
"We know we played well but also we’re extremely disappointed. We can’t be up 2-0 at home and they get three unanswered goals. That’s just unacceptable," said defender Sean Franklin. "It just seems like we can’t get any luck to go our way – a bounce, a call, something. It just seems like things aren’t going the way we wanted them to go."
With the victory, San Jose (8-2-3) catapulted themselves to the top of the league standings, a single point in front of Real Salt Lake and the New York Red Bulls.
Despite the joy of the club's first road victory over the Galaxy (3-7-2) since rejoining MLS, Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop was quick to downplay the idea that Wednesday's five goal thriller had brought spice back to the Galaxy-Earthquakes rivalry.
"I don’t look at it as a rivalry, I think [reporters] want it to be a rivalry, it is just three points for us. I think the rivalry ended in 2005," said Yallop."The LA Galaxy have earned the right to be at the top of the league, winning the title last year, we are still trying to build our franchise, trying to get into playoffs spots and get what we had in 03 or 05. To me it was about overcoming a tough opponent, but a few things had to go our way."