The cruelty of the game rang true at the moment Shea Salinas struck the crossbar with the 12th and final penalty kick attempt. San Jose contributed so much to the game with so little to give. It took away a painful defeat from the spot as its reward.
Toluca survived with a 5-4 triumph on penalty kicks after a 1-1 draw on the night and a 2-2 stalemate in the tie, but the credit lands firmly with the Earthquakes. San Jose traveled to Mexico with a tattered squad stripped of several starters and a makeshift lineup designed to soak up pressure and strike on the counter. The visitors chased and harried for 120 minutes and muddled through the barest of minimums in possession along the way.
Earthquakes defender Ty Harden ensured the toil yielded some dividends when he headed his side in front after 56 minutes. Salinas delivered an enticing free kick from the middle third. Harden beat his marker to the ball and diverted the service inside the far post to secure a precious away goal and stoke hopes for a famous victory at Estadio Nemesio Diez.
Toluca – surprisingly subdued for much of this tie – finally exhibited some modest shred of urgency in a bid to restore parity. Isaac Brizuela – the San Jose native who presented most of the danger for the home side on the evening – snatched the second stunning goal in as many games with a tidy trap off the chest and a rasping drive inside the far post to equalize after 69 minutes.
San Jose buckled down over the next 20 minutes to somehow force the match into extra time. It took a Sam Cronin clearance off the line three minutes from time and several last-ditch interventions to prolong the affair, but the Earthquakes somehow kept their semifinal dreams alive for another thirty minutes.
Alan Gordon nearly fulfilled them six minutes into extra time. Second half substitute Chris Wondolowski – tireless upon his arrival to boost his side – fired a shot from distance. Toluca goalkeeper Alfredo Talavera spilled it into a poor area and watched Gordon poke home to presumably restore the Earthquakes’ lead. It did not stand as the assistant referee ruled the effort out for offside, though the replays showed the goal should have counted Jon Busch subsequently pushed a late effort onto the crossbar to preserve the stalemate and send the match into penalty kicks.
Busch and Talavera traded saves in the first round before the shooters converted one by one. Talavera stepped up in the fifth round and stroked home, while rookie J.J. Koval matched the feat for the Earthquakes. Wilson Tiago needed the help of Busch and the crossbar to push his sixth-round attempt over the line. Salinas received no such good fortune as his strike off the frame sent the Earthquakes out of the competition in the most painful and unwarranted of fashions.