Soccer: MLS Playoffs: Columbus at San Jose
What a day! I knew this was going to be a good day when I scored my lowest score ever in my morning golf game, and I had a feeling going to the Quakes game that evening that destiny was in the making. This was an amazing, incredible experience. San Jose has long been the whipping dog of MLS, not making the post season since MLS' first year of existence in 1996. To see them not just succeed, but play superbly well, was inspiring. They deserved this win and more. They just toyed with Columbus -- which aren't a bad team -- and I saw some quick passing sequences that took my breath away. Absolutely world class. I don't want to praise them too much: they are a young team, and there were a few frantic scrambles and some lucky breaks, but they are playing impassioned soccer like champions.
Manny Lagos scored the first goal just eight minutes in. Donovan spread the field by slipping the ball wide to Wade Barrett on the left, right below where I was sitting. From my view in the stands, it was clear what was going to happen and everyone began standing up in anticipation. Wade's cross was absolutely perfect, and Manny just needed a slight head flick to send it to the back post. Fantastic!
At halftime it was still 1-0 and I was a little nervous: would San Jose turn into the team of old and give up a late equalizer? Would they sit back and become defensive? The answer was a decided "No!" They attacked right from the start of the second half, not even giving the Crew a chance at offense as they were too busy defending. The Quakes' attacks didn't produce a goal, but they played smart and patient and didn't get carried away with attacking and give up a goal at the back. With about 20 minutes left, coach Frank Yallop -- easily my vote for coach of the year -- took off Agogo and put in regular season scoring leader Ronald Cerritos. Within one minute he scored a goal with a great header.
That second goal pretty much settled the match. The Crew became desperate, fouling regularly, but they were a beaten team and knew it. (Interestingly, no San Jose player received a yellow card in this game.) The deal was sealed with fifteen to go when 19-year-old superstar Landon Donovan (who else) pulled a nifty move. Inside the box, he received a pass from Agoos with his back to the goal. He chested it down and twirled: his second touch was a blast into the back corner of the net! (You can see video of the goal here.)
All in all, it was a terrific performance that gets the Earthquakes their first semifinal berth ever. As the only team this season to win their quarterfinal series in just two matches (all the others must play a game three), they've got a ton of confidence going into the semifinal series where they'll face either defending champions Kansas City or league-leading Miami. I was nervous about Miami, who've been the best in MLS all year, but with San Jose playing like this, no longer: bring 'em on! The Quakes can take 'em and will take the Championship!
Labels: Soccer MLS