Gordon lifts San Jose to 1-1 draw with Toluca in CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal

Alan Gordon leads the celebrations after his late header secured a 1-1 draw with Toluca at Buck Shaw Stadium on Tuesday night.

Ed Szczepanski/Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports

SANTA CLARA, Calif.

Late salvos occur almost as a matter of dramatic course at Buck Shaw Stadium, but they rarely feel more earned than it did on Tuesday night. San Jose generated chance after chance until the usual heroics arrived to ensure their CONCACAF Champions League lived on for another week.

The latest instance of Goonie magic involved an Alan Gordon header at the death and a precious equalizer to hand San Jose a 1-1 draw against Toluca in the first leg of their quarterfinal tie. Gordon dashed free at the back post and diverted Shea Salinas’ free kick past Alfredo Talavera in the 95th minute to ensure the Earthquakes claimed the result their performance deserved with yet another comeback.

"œWe’re always going to have that," Gordon said. "€œIt’s in our DNA to come back and get results. It’s good for our confidence going forward. We played a good team tonight and we played them well."

How well remains a matter under some debate. Toluca bossed the match in the opening half-hour or so without posing much of a threat in the final third. San Jose eventually found its footing and posed several questions before Raúl Nava volleyed home sumptuously after 67 minutes to give the visitors an important away goal.

San Jose forward Chris Wondolowski tussles with Toluca’s Wilson Tiago during the 1-1 draw at Buck Shaw Stadium.

Nava’s stunning opener paved the way for the inevitable Earthquakes onslaught, a robust display of chaos and force unpalatable to Toluca manager José Cardozo despite its effectiveness on the evening and his own side’s relative impotence.

“I don’t think our rival was actually attacking,” Cardozo said through a translator. “They were just shooting at the goal. I think our team was superior to them. They weren’t attacking. They brought in a lot of big players, but, on the field, we had a team that was playing football and another team that was just shooting at the goal.”

Sharper aim from the Earthquakes might have erased the need for a last-gasp equalizer. Steven Lenhart saw his first-half header charged down by Edgar Dueñas – perhaps even with a hand, though the referee waved the penalty claims away – en route to goal. Chris Wondolowski spurned two more presentable chances in the second half. And half the team apparently had a crack at goal during an almighty, if ultimately fruitless, scrum inside the final quarter of an hour.

“Truthfully honest, if you watched that game and thought they outplayed us, I don’t know,” Wondolowski said. “It is what it is. If you look at the stats, look at the shots, look at our chances, look at the chances created, I thought we played really well.”

More of the same will give the Earthquakes a puncher’s chance of procuring a result at Estadio Nemesio Diez next week. Success won’t come easily against a Toluca side expected to include several regulars omitted from the starting XI for the first leg, but this group always believes it can find a way to grind out a result given its commitment and persistence. On this evidence, their optimism isn’t entirely misplaced.