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San Jose Earthquakes score deep into stoppage time to tie Toronto FC 2-2

Oswaldo Alanis scored directly off a free kick on his MLS debut to secure the 2-2 draw against TFC.

San Jose Earthquakes' Vako (11) battles for the ball with Toronto FC's Tsubasa Endoh (31) during the first half of an MLS soccer game in San Jose, Calif., Saturday, Feb. 29, 2020. (AP Photo/Jed Jacobsohn)

SAN JOSE, Calif. — Saturday’s home opener was not going the way of the San Jose Earthquakes, especially after Toronto FC went up by two goals early in the second half. 

But the Quakes would not quit, and deep into stoppage time, newcomer Oswaldo Alanis struck a free kick golazo that completed a dramatic comeback, and made a bit of history too, giving San Jose a 2-2 draw against the MLS Cup runner-up.

“That was the most emotional thing,” Alanis said. “We knew we were playing good and the result is not what we wanted, so scoring in the last minute was a great feeling, for the whole stadium, for all my teammates, and for all of San Jose.”

It was the first goal off a direct free kick by San Jose at Earthquakes Stadium, which opened in 2015. The last time the Quakes scored directly off such a set piece was back in 2013, when Marvin Chavez scored one against the Colorado Rapids at Buck Shaw Stadium.

“Today, the ending showed how we are in our hearts,” Earthquakes head coach Matias Almeyda said. “It was happiness in a full stadium and it was a great gift to get the draw the way we did.”

TFC took a first-half lead courtesy of a penalty kick by Alejandro Pozuelo, then doubled the advantage on Richie -Laryea’s second-ever MLS goal. The Quakes halved the lead through Andy Rios before Alanis’ late heroics five minutes into stoppage time tied the game at two goals apiece.

“At halftime, I told the players the game would last 95 minutes,” Almeyda added, “and we could still score up to 94 minutes and 58 seconds. Well, I guess I was lucky we did.”

Alanis will get the headlines for his stunning free kick goal, but man of the match honors go to Cristian Espinoza, whose assist on Rios’ goal started the comeback, and whose clever play to get fouled and earn the stoppage time free kick set up Alanis to be the hero. Espinoza was all smiles after the game as he reflected on the resiliency his teammates showed.

“Going from losing the game to tying is very grateful for us,” Espinoza said. “It’s a very positive push fro us as we start the season.”

Alanis, who joined the Earthquakes in the offseason on a one-year loan from Chivas de Guadalajara in Liga MX, is new to San Jose soccer, but his former time as a player with Almeyda, and the welcoming he’s received from everyone at the club, has made the transition to MLS very manageable. He looked comfortable at centerback the entire game, and he’s already looking to help the Quakes keep up their competitiveness.

“I hope there will be many more and I can give the best I can,” Alanis said. “I hope we will have more shots, more goals, and more wins for the team.”

The game certainly ended with a bang, but from the opening whistle, there were few fireworks. Over the first 20 minutes of the game, the teams simply battled in the midfield and couldn’t break through the back lines. The Quakes finally took their first shot of the game in the 27th minute as Nick Lima drilled a low ball to the far post for goalkeeper Quentin Westberg made a diving save to parry the ball away.

Toronto had its best chance a minute later as a counterattack put Jacob Shaffelburg behind the defense. Guram Kashia, running at a dead sprint, caught up with the midfielder inside the box and expertly poked the ball over the line with a sliding tackle.

The Earthquakes would not be as fortunate in the 38th minute, as referee Armando Villarreal adjudged an entanglement of Jozy Altidore and Andy Rios to be a penalty in favor of the U.S. international. Pozuelo, with his trademark calm, slotted the ball past Daniel Vega to give Toronto the lead.

San Jose was stunned by the turn of events, but the offense soon found more space in the TFC defensive zone and began to assert itself. The Quakes nearly equalized in the 44th minute when Danny Hoesen blasted a shot from inside the area, but the forward could only hit the side netting.

Following intermission, both sides traded scoring opportunities, as Tsubasa Endoh cracked a shot that caromed off the crossbar in the 49th minute and Alanis tested Westberg from distance a minute later.

But it was the visitors who found the back of the net in the 51st minute, as Laryea poked home the rebound after Vega had desperately saved a low shot by Endoh. The TFC defender did well to stay onside on the play, and he gladly celebrated his side’s 2-0 lead.

The Quakes, with their backs against the wall, wouldn’t give up, and when Espinoza, newly minted as a designated player in the offseason, found himself with plenty of space in which to operate on the left wing, he fired in a cross that Rios stabbed home with a diving kick. 

The cheers got a little bit louder as first Shea Salinas and then Chris Wondolowski entered as subs in the 63rd and 66th minutes, respectively. The two long-tenured Quakes immediately gave the hosts a boost as they surged forward in search of a tying goal.

But Toronto stayed compact and weathered every attack the Earthquakes could put together. It was a disciplined defensive display from the Eastern Conference champions, and it almost proved enough for the visitors to enjoy a deserved victory.

Then, in the 95th minute, a foul outside the TFC area gave the Quakes the lifeline they needed. Alanis, with a slew of teammates flooding the box, took matters into his own hands and fired a curling shot to the far post out of the reach of the goalkeeper to level the score, sending players, coaches, and fans alike into pandemonium. It was a bit of history too, as it was the first goal directly from a free kick for San Jose since 2013, and it was the salvation they needed to avoid a disappointing opening day loss.

The Quakes, who last season lost their first four games, were more than happy to walk away with a 2-2 draw. They’ll certainly savor the result for the week before getting back into action next weekend when they host Western Conference foes Minnesota United FC at Earthquakes Stadium, kick-off scheduled for 5:00 p.m.

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