Quakes facing history

November 6, 2012, 5:06 pm
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Every time the San Jose Earthquakes get close to winning something, veteran soccer watchers get a twitch. After all, the last time they were a big deal in Major League Soccer, they celebrated by moving to Houston.Such has been the teams history, though. Poor stepchildren in the heyday of the old North American Soccer League (think the New York Cosmos and 23 dwarves), always marked for death because Spartan Stadium was too small and not fashionable enough, the Quakes and their fans did with attitude what they could not do with economic or real estate throw weight.And now, with the second leg of their Western Conference semifinal against the Los Angeles Galaxy (formerly Beckhams) Wednesday night, they have a chance not only to face their history but burnish it.They must first restrain the Galaxy, then hope to evade the winner of Seattle-Real Salt Lake, and then hope that Houston escapes the Eastern Conference thicket, so that they can do what no team has ever done in MLS history.RELATED: L.A. Galaxy-San Jose Earthquakes preview
Play themselves for the championship.The Quakes, who probably assembled their best team ever this year and won the West despite being branded as a team that played ugly soccer and were a bunch of jokes, according to Los Angeles Omar Gonzalez, have been down this road before. They won in 2001 and 2003, but have always worn the ugly stepchild clothes well. After all, this is the sixth (or is it seventh?) version of the Quakes, and they have always been . . . well, unfashionable.Indeed, they are as close as any MLS team has ever come to being the old Toronto Metros-Croatia, a proud old Canadian semipro side from the years when each ethnic group had its own local club. The team bought its way into the old NASL when the leagues franchise there was hemorrhaging money, and won the 1976 title (right before the Cosmos ate the league), but the TV broadcasters were told they could never refer to Metros-Croatia, because it was, even for 1976, uncool.RELATED: Earthquakes roster Stats Fixtures
Eventually, they did die, just as the Quakes have on several different occasions, but as it turns out, they dont really die so much as disappear, get angry, and then come back.And when we say get angry, we do mean the Eric Wynalda-vs.-Laurie Calloway days, and the Richard Gough-vs.-Brian Quinn days, and the Johnny Moore-vs.-AEG days, and the everyone-vs.-Alan Rothenberg days.Theirs is a charming, stubborn, sometimes disputatious story, and when forward Steven Lenhart said, Goonies never say die, he didnt know the half of it.But for the circle to close, they not only have to get to the final but meet Houston in it. The Dynamo, which was originally going to be called Houston 1836 as part of the lets-name-our-teams-like-they-came-from-Europe fetish, had to change its name because Hispanics know that 1836 was the year that Texas won its independence from Mexico in that very Texas-y way it has. With a war.But before that, it had to change its name from San Jose Earthquakes, and those who have been around awhile remember that little piece of bait-and-switch.And while were at it, I wondered why the Quakes never fell for that pretend-were-from-the-old-country dodge and called itself Shakhtar San Jose, or Pruneyard Ajax, or Earthquakes Moenchengladbach. And then I remembered that Moore quit when the new owners wanted to hook the team into an arrangement with the Mexican side Club America and call itself San Jose America.God help us all.But we digress. The Quakes still have much to do before they get to the December 1 final, against a number of difficult sides, and they will doubtless have to do it chins out, attitudes at the ready. With any luck they will resist the temptation to resort to soul-eating horrors like Gangnam Style or the other signature fan manipulators the other local teams like to employ.If it helps to remind them of how hard it is to stay a Quake with this clubs history, maybe they can proclaim themselves the San Jose Earthquakes-Croatia. History says that works, at least for awhile.Ray Ratto is a columnist for CSNBayArea.com

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