The San Jose Earthquakes pulled off the biggest upset of the tournament in the Round of 16 when they defeated the #3 seed, Real Salt Lake. RSL had been unbeaten in the seven-match 2010 season, and had won the MLS Cup on top of that. It was a shock to see them dismissed by the Earthquakes in the first round of this tourney.
But San Jose’s win against Real Salt Lake was proven to be no fluke when the Quakes knocked another favorite, the Houston Dynamo, out of the tournament by a 2-1 score in the Quarterfinals.
Chris Wondolowski delivered a perfect corner to Sam Cronin in the 35th minute to open the scoring. Cronin timed his jump just right, went up over the back of defender Eddie Robinson and slammed a header into the lower far corner to give the underdogs the lead.
That 1-0 lead was the score for the next 30 minutes, until in minute 64, again on a corner kick from Chris Wondolowski, Bobby Burling went up for a header in the six-yard box and was fouled by Houston’s Cam Weaver. The official pointed at the spot and Wondolowski took and converted the penalty kick.
The 2-goal lead was short-lived, however, when Brian Boswell took a long range (Area E) shot on the ensuing kickoff and found the sleeping Jon Busch off his line. Within a minute of the last goal, Houston had closed the gap again.
In the 87th minute, with San Jose still leading 2-1, Brad Davis made a clutch steal and had a breakaway toward goal. He was in Area D and all alone when Bobby Burling made a desperate attempt to bring him down. Burling’s tackle was ill-timed and clumsy and caught Davis with both feet. Burling was shown a Red Card and San Jose was down to 10 men with just 3 minutes of regulation to go.
Unfortunately for the home side, they couldn’t capitalize. In fact, it was the Earthquakes who managed to make 3 more attempts at goal in the final minutes of play and time ran out after a Richard Dawkins strike on goal in the 4th minute of added time.
San Jose completed another tremendous upset, and will go on to face the winner of Seattle Sounders (2) versus Colorado Rapids (7) in the Semi-Finals.
Reaching the Semi-Finals of the tournament means that San Jose will likely be spared from relegation out of the MLS top-table. Of the 13 teams in the tournament that do not have automatic bids into the 2011 season, the three highest finishers will be allowed to compete in the 2011 MLS mini-season. At this point it is known that if either Colorado OR Philadelphia lose in their Quarterfinal matches (at Seattle and Los Angeles, respectively), San Jose will qualify for the next season.