On the Saturday afternoon after April Fool’s day, PayPal Park felt like one big prank.
In just its second season of play in the MLS, Austin FC beat up on its much older big brother — San Jose — for 70 straight minutes. However, what looked like a soon to be shutout quickly turned into a stalemate, after the Earthquakes scored two quick equalizers in two minutes. By the end of the scrap, San Jose left its field relatively unscathed in a 2-2 draw with Austin.
“If we start the game like we played in the second half, it would be a different game,” said Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda. “If we played 10 more minutes, we would win the game for sure.”
Sitting near the bottom of the Western Conference standings, San Jose returned desperate to pick up points. On the flip side, No. 3 Austin FC came to the Bay Area ready to notch another win to its overall record of 2-0-1.
The winless home team came out of the gate playing with nothing to lose. High offensive pressure put the Earthquakes in scoring position several times within the opening minutes, but Austin’s solid defense kept San Jose from getting a shot off.
Austin wasted no time showing its prowess, as forward Maximiliano Urruti scored his first goal of the season in the 11th minute. In transition, Austin FC caught the Earthquakes off guard with a beautifully placed through ball lobbed into the air by defender Julio Cascante.
With two San Jose defenders spread out wide behind Urruti, the nine-year veteran lofted a powerful shot from around 25 yards out that went straight past Earthquakes goalkeeper JT Marcinkowski. In an instant, feelings of disbelief enveloped the crowd.
Halftime couldn’t come sooner for a San Jose team that was struggling to create chances.
Five minutes into the second half, things went from bad to worse for the Earthquakes as San Jose midfielder Jackson Yueill fouled Austin midfielder Dani Pereira, resulting in a penalty kick. Fellow Austin midfielder Sebastian Driussi stepped up to the mark to face Marcinkowski, whose confident strike easily put the visitors up 2-0.
Despite having a safe lead, Austin began playing more dangerously and was called for more fouls. Fortunately for the Earthquakes, a whistle in the six-yard box awarded them a penalty kick of their own. Unlike Driussi’s 20 minutes earlier, Jeremy Ebobisse’s bottom-left corner shot was weak, but confused goalkeeper Brad Stuver enough to send him flying in the opposite direction.
A quick shift in momentum had San Jose notching its second goal of the night only two minutes later. Amid a scramble in front of Austin’s goal, 18-year-old Cade Cowell sent the ball past Stuver to tie the match.
The soccer gods appeared to have been looking down favorably on the Earthquakes, as they were near inches away from securing the game-winner. The pressure proved to be too much, however, when defender Francisco Calvo missed a wide-open shot in the 88th minute. Despite the addition of minutes of extra time, San Jose’s young front line couldn’t crack Austin’s veteran-led defense.
“Every goal we conceded, we could’ve avoided from our own mistakes,” Almeyda said. “We always correct things, work on it and talk about it, but that’s football.”
Forcing a draw off a successful team like Austin FC is a big result for the Earthquakes, but nothing that fans should write home about. After all, now with five games under their belt, the Earthquakes still don’t have a victory to show.
The San Jose faithful can’t help but feel like the biggest joke was on them for believing their team could pull off the win.