Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By IVES GALARCEP
The San Jose Earthquakes looked primed to be demolished on Wednesday night, missing eight starters and facing a dangerous Toluca side in Mexico with a patch-work defense. The Earthquakes figured to be blown out of the water.
It didn’t quite work out that way, but in the end San Jose still went home eliminated from the CONCACAF Champions League.
Toluca clinched their place in the Champions League semifinals after edging the Earthquakes in penalty kicks, 5-4, with San Jose being eliminated after Shea Salinas sent his PK attempt off the woodwork.
The missed penalty put a painful cap on an otherwise inspired performance from the Earthquakes, who pushed Toluca to the brink despite beginning the match without several starters, including Chris Wondolowski, Victor Bernardez, Clarence Goodson and Alan Gordon.
The teams traded missed penalties in the first round, including a Wondolowski miss, but then both teams combined for nine straight penalty conversions before Salinas sent his right-footed shot off the goal frame.
The Earthquakes had Toluca on the ropes briefly, scoring a surprise goal to take a brief lead on Toluca, but the Mexican side rallied and used a stunning strike from San Jose native Isaac Brizuela, who delivered a 69th-minute equalizer from long range.
The Earthquakes opened the scoring in surprising fashion when defender Ty Harden headed home a Salinas cross in the 56th minute for his first career goal as a pro.
That goal seemed to wake up Toluca, who hadn’t played with much urgency before that. Brizuela’s stunner looked as though it might spark a rout, but the Earthquakes held on, and gave the Mexican side all it could handle, pushing the match into extra time, and eventually penalty kicks.