In front of a record crowd, the San Jose Earthquakes were less than 10 minutes away from a come-from-behind victory at Stanford Stadium in Palo Alto.
Instead, a shot by New York Red Bulls midfielder Joel Lindpere was headed into the San Jose net by an Earthquakes defender. The own goal evened things up, ending the Saturday evening Major League Soccer affair in a 2-2 draw.
Lindpere scored the initial score of the game in the 7th minute to quickly put the East Coast visitors on the board.
Back-to-back Earthquakes goals, including a stirring head shot from feisty forward Steven Lenhart, put the host Quakes ahead 2-1 in the 68th minute of action.
Lenhart got tangled up with the New York keeper twice in the first half, and exchanged unpleasantries with another group of opponents later on in the second half.
Off a perfectly placed cross from teammate Steven Beitashour, Lenhart rammed the ball into the net.
As the crowd roared for the go-ahead tally, Lenhart leapt up and grabbed the cross bar. The goal scorer dangled with glee as the stadium shook in delight.
“I've been playing a lot of basketball lately,” Lenhart said with a grin about his post goal celebration. “I thought the second half was better than the first half. We probably should have won the game.The crowd gave us a good boost."
The enigmatic forward wasn’t pleased coming away with just a tie, but did enjoy scoring a goal in front of such a large audience.
“It’s like eating a double-double at In-N-Out Burger instead of a Big Mac at McDonalds,” Lenhart said about the difference between scoring a goal at Stanford Stadium compared to Buck Shaw Stadium at Santa Clara University where San Jose usually draws crowds less than half the size that showed up in Palo Alto Saturday.
In the first meeting between the two teams this year, New York blanked San Jose 3-0 on April 16 at Red Bull Area. French soccer star Thierry Henry had a goal and an assist in the win. The dangerous forward did not play due to an undisclosed injury on Saturday night.
“It’s disappointing to concede a late goal,” San Jose head coach Frank Yallop said. “I thought we played much better once we scored. My players may have been a little nervous early on, but I think our guys warmed to the crowd.”
Soccer fans of all ages packed into Stanford Stadium and helped the Earthquakes set a new franchise attendance record. The announced number was 41,028 Saturday night, setting a new non-doubleheader attendance mark in the team’s history dating back to the mid-90s.
New York (5-3-10) controlled the ball and the pace early. Loose balls were won by the visitors in the middle of the pitch, leading to a handful of chances around the cage. After a wobbly opening 20 minutes of play, San Jose (5-5-6) settled in and began to even things up, especially in it’s own end of the field.
After missing the past four games due to the CONCACAF Gold Cup, forward Chris Wondolowski nearly tied the score with a left-footed strike in the 16th minute.
Wondolowski didn’t get his goal, but his energy, along with Lenhart, spurred the Earthquakes along in the first half.
San Jose tied the game off a corner kick in the 37th minute. The loose ball found it’s way to midfielder Khari Stephenson, who cranked the ball into the top of the net.
The match also featured a reunion of the 1994 U.S. World Cup team at halftime and had a postgame fireworks display.