Soccer is one of those sports that people are either fully enamored with or simply don’t understand. Through 90 minutes of play, you can have a scoreless match full of excellent passing combos and countless chances. Each game is unique, and no one ever knows exactly how it is going to play out. When the San Jose Earthquakes took on the Columbus Crew on Saturday, no one could have expected the game that went down.
The Earthquakes entered Saturday’s game desperate for a win after losing their home opener to the New York Red Bulls 3-1 the previous weekend. The away side was largely free of this excess pressure as the Crew secured a dominant 4-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps in their home opener.
This game could best be described in one word: dramatic.
Kicking things off early, Earthquakes midfielder Paul Marie went down in the box after being clipped by Crew defender Milos Degenek in the fifth minute. Though initially called to play on, the referee went to video assistant referee, or VAR, in the ninth minute and awarded the Earthquakes a penalty kick that forward Christian Espinoza tucked away to put San Jose up 1-0 and secure his first goal of the season.
As the game continued on, things seemed to be connecting for the home side. That is, until the 33rd minute. Originally given a yellow for a foul, Jamiro Monteiro was sent off with a red card after VAR. As a result, the Earthquakes were forced to play with 10 for the remaining 60 minutes.
Five minutes later, Crew defender Steven Moreira weaved through the Earthquakes’ defense and passed to Lucas Zelarayán, who leveled the game with a masterful finish.
Starting off the second half strong, Columbus was pushing offensively, looking to capitalize on its one-man advantage. San Jose’s defense was nowhere to be found as a significant portion of this 45 was played in its defensive half.
Columbus’ pressure paid off in the 68th minute when U.S. men’s national team forward Gyasi Zardes knocked the ball behind the net off of a corner kick that was kept alive. Adding to the Crew’s lead, Zelarayán put another one in the back of the net in the 73rd minute, this time off of a well taken free kick.
Statistically, the Crew were dominating in every way at this point, but those in attendance wouldn’t know it given how hard the Ultras — San Jose’s supporters’ group — were rooting for the home side.
Now up 3-1 with less than 10 minutes left in the match, the Crew had another 3 points all but secured. However, as all soccer fans know, everything can change in a minute. In this game, it was the 84th. Down a man and desperate not to lose another home match, the Earthquakes earned a set piece not far from the 18. Sent into the box, the ball was met by Francisco Calvo’s head, etching away at the Earthquakes’ deficit.
Fortunately for the Earthquakes, the referees added four minutes of stoppage time. San Jose spent each one knocking on the door, trying to get the equalizer. In one of the final plays of the match, all 10 of the Earthquakes players filled the Crew’s 18, waiting for a corner kick to be sent in. Sent in by midfielder Ján Greguš, the ball was redirected into the goal off of a header by none other than Calvo.
PayPal Park erupted in chants and applause as fans couldn’t believe the comeback they just witnessed. Dramatics stole the show as the two sides combined for one red card, two VAR calls and six goals.
“When we play at home, we always want to win here, but we tied against a really good team.” Calvo said after the match. “Remember that they just scored four goals in their last game.”
The saying “it isn’t over until it’s over” couldn’t better describe this match. Though they’re still looking for their first win of the season, the Earthquakes demonstrated pure grit as they battled a man short for that point. For the Crew, they must not let wins slip from their fingertips unless they want to repeat last year and miss another postseason.