The "never say die" San Jose Earthquakes continued their 2012 season late-game comeback magic, earning a 2-1 victory at the Colorado Rapids behind goals from Alan Gordon and Chris Wondolowski.
After giving up a first-half goal to Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan, the Earthquakes came back with a Gordon finish in the 83rd minute and a Wondolowski goal from the penalty spot in the second minute of stoppage time.
The win against the Rapids was the Earthquakes first victory in Colorado since early in the 2008 season and keeps San Jose firmly in second place in the MLS Western Conference.
The Earthquakes started the game as the more dangerous side, nearly finding the net on two occasions in the opening 15 minutes. A Victor Bernardez free kick in the 3rd minute from 30 yards was batted over the crossbar by Rapids goalkeeper Matt Perkins. A Simon Dawkins shot attempt in the 8th minute at the top of the penalty area from the run of play again required Perkins to tip the ball to safety and keep the game scoreless.
Having weathered the early Earthquakes storm, the Rapids took the lead in the 18th minute following a throw-in. Colorado defender Hunter Freeman delivered a crossing pass to the far post where Mullan looped a header just over the outstretched arms of goalkeeper David Bingham and into the far-side inside netting for the game's opening goal. Even Jon Busch, the Earthquakes regular starting goalkeeper sitting out the game due to suspension, would not have been able to save the well placed Mullan shot.
The Rapids nearly doubled their lead in the 29th minute following a free kick awarded to Colorado after Marvin Chavez earned a yellow card for a bad tackle against his right-sided counterpart Luis Zapata. The restart from Martin Rivero required Bingham to make an acrobatic save to keep the ball out of the net.
In the 36th minute, the Earthquakes had their best chance yet in the game to get a goal. Defender Justin Morrow, playing in an advanced role up the left wing sent a cross into the area that Steven Lenhart redirected on target. Instead of registering the equalizer, Lenhart could only watch as Pickens made the save of the game to push the ball around the far post and keep the Earthquakes off the scoreboard.
With the match approaching halftime, Bernardez was shown a yellow card for a dangerous kick on Rapids forward Conor Casey. Colorado could not capitalize on the free kick, and the game entered the interval with the Rapids leading 1-0.
The Earthquakes had a good chance to equalize in the 54th minute, as a yellow card offense by Zapata on Dawkins gave San Jose a free kick deep in Rapids territory. The delivery by Beitashour found Lenhart in the area, but his soft header was easily corralled by Pickens.
Looking to spark some life into their moribund offense, head coach Frank Yallop turned to the bench in the 65th minute and brought on forward Gordon for midfielder Baca. Three minutes later, with the Earthquakes pressuring the Rapids defense, Dawkins forced a good save from Pickens with a low shot from 18 yards. Two more offense-minded substitutions, the first in the 70th minute as Khari Stephenson entered for Sam Cronin and the second in the 75th minute as Shea Salinas replaced Steven Beitashour, saw the Earthquakes go for broke as they still trailed by a lone goal entering the last 15 minutes of the match.
The San Jose substitutions finally paid dividends in the 83rd minute, as a long pass down the right sideline found Salinas with plenty of space to deliver a low cross into the area. Lenhart redirected the ball on goal, but Pickens was there to bat the ball away. Gordon, anticipating an opportunity developing, reached the rebound just ahead of his Rapids marker and touched the ball into the net for the equalizer. The goal was Gordon's fifth of the season, his fourth scored after the 80th minute of play.
Just as the match was nearing stoppage time, Gordon was again the center of attention, as he earned a penalty kick following a collision with Pickens on an Earthquakes counterattack. Wondolowski, San Jose's designated penalty taker, blasted the ball past Pickens to give the Earthquakes their first lead of the evening.
The Rapids pushed forward with numbers in an attempt to find a game-tying goal, but were unable to break through the San Jose defense and the game ended 2-1 in favor of the visitors.