San Jose?’s come-from-behind win this week was pretty exciting, but it does no?t compare to the greatest comeback in MLS playoff history. It, too, was produced by San Jose as the team ran toward the 2003 championship.
Like this year the ?03 playoffs started with a two-game series that counted total goals. After losing the opening game 2-0, the Earthquakes found themselves behind two more goals to the Los Angeles Galaxy in the first half of the second game.
Several factors made a comeback from an aggregate score of 4-0 unlikely. First, San Jose’?s previous four goals against the Galaxy had taken 820 minutes. (There were only 70 minutes left in the playoff series.) Second, Galaxy goalkeeper Kevin Hartman had never allowed more than two goals in his 37 previous starts. Third, Hartman had entered the match building a post-season shutout streak of 401 minutes.
Jeff Agoos started the comeback with a San Jose goal in the 21st minute. Then came a goal from Landon Donovan, and the teams headed in for halftime. At that point the Earthquakes needed to prevent any goals by the Galaxy and score two more goals just to force overtime.
Jamil Walker scored for the Earthquakes soon after half for an aggregate 4-3 score, but then the Galaxy regrouped, holding their own on defense and pressuring San Jose’?s goal. San Jose Coach Frank Yallop subbed in Rodrigo Faria, and with two minutes left in the game he sent on Chris Roner. Both players later played vital roles.
Roner scored just before the final whistle, locking the aggregate score at 4-4, sending the series into overtime. There, Faria, without a goal in 723 minutes of play, put in the golden goal that sent San Jose into the conference final.
Facing Kansas City in the one-game conference final, the Earthquakes needed more comebacks. The Earthquakes fell behind in the 57th minute but tied it four minutes later. After allowing another goal, San Jose faced the possibility of heading home until they scored with under seven minutes left. Going into extra time, neither team scored in the first period. In the 117th minute, Landon Donovan won it for the Quakes, sending the team into MLS Cup 03.
The final was comparatively easy. San Jose scored two in the first half and held on to win 4-2.