Thursday, November 9, 2017

9 November 2003 - The Earthquakes Shake Up The Playoffs

On 9 November 2003, the San Jose Earthquakes staged the biggest comeback in MLS playoff history to beat the Los Angeles Galaxy in the semifinals.

As the league's only California teams, San Jose and Los Angeles had developed a strong rivalry, nicknamed the California Clásico and capped two years earlier when the Earthquakes, making their first appearance in the championship match, beat the Galaxy 2-1, handing LA their loss in three MLS Cup appearances.

By 2003, the Galaxy were fortunate to make the playoffs at all, finishing fourth out of five teams in the Western Conference while San Jose were in first. But when the teams met at the Home Depot Center on 1 November for the first leg of the semifinal, LA won 2-0. And when they reconvened at Spartan Stadium in San Jose eight days later, LA again took a two-goal lead with strikes from Carlos Ruiz (7') and Peter Vagenas (13'), giving San Jose an aggregate hill to climb that was four goals high.

The comeback started in the first half with Jeff Agoos (21') and Landon Donovan (35') finding the back of the net. Jamil Walker scored early in the second half (50'), but LA looked likely to hold on to their 4-3 aggregate lead. Then, in the 90th minute, Chris Roner scored to send the match into extra time.

At the time, the MLS Cup used the golden goal rule, which meant that the first goal scored in extra time would win the match. And San Jose's Rodrigo Faria found it in the 96th minute (it was his only goal of the season). San Jose went on to beat Kansas City in the conference final, then defeated Chicago in the championship game.

In addition to being the biggest comeback in MLS playoff history, the 5-2 win in that second leg was the biggest victory in the California Clásico.

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