SAN JOSE, California -- It’s a bird…it’s a plane…it’s…Alan Gordon!
The San Jose Earthquakes superhero was at it again this week when his stoppage-time header secured a 1-1 draw against Toluca FC in the first leg of the teams’ CONCACAF Champions League quarterfinal series.
“He’s amazing,” said teammate Chris Wondolowski. “He is one of the hardest working guys there is.”
Gordon’s heroics seem almost commonplace in San Jose. During the team’s Supporters’ Shield winning season of 2012, he scored a career-high 13 goals, the vast majority of those late in games. Last season, Gordon scored the Earthquakes’ Goal-of-the-Year: a stunning stoppage time winner against the LA Galaxy in front of over 50,000 fans at Stanford Stadium. And, now, add Champions League goal scorer to his resume.
It almost wasn’t to be as Gordon had to temper his preparation for the quarterfinal series due to offseason foot surgery and the subsequent recovery time it demanded. The 12-year MLS veteran played it smart during the preseason, though, and with only a single appearance ahead of the Toluca match was perhaps fresher than anyone else on the team.
“He knows how to get ready,” continued Wondolowski. “He’s a wily veteran who knows exactly what to do to get ready for this day. He knows how to do it. It’s not his first rodeo.”
Gordon, despite not participating with the full squad on the training field, kept himself busy behind the scenes in the gym. The once self-proclaimed member of the “MLS Preseason Hall of Fame” for his past years’ goal scoring exploits, which did little to ensure regular season success, took a different approach than in season’s past, saving his energy for Toluca.
“I’m not surprised,” said head coach Mark Watson. “He’s not fully match fit, but Alan’s the type of guy that can join a game at any moment and have an impact.”
The equalizing goal came in typical Earthquakes fashion. With the last kick of the game, midfielder Shea Salinas delivered a swerving free kick into the penalty area that the 6’3” Gordon met head and shoulders above his defensive marker and nodded into the goal. Sold-out Buck Shaw Stadium erupted in cheers, as it has so often done in the past, witnessing yet another dramatic San Jose moment.
“To battle back and show ourselves that we still had it,” expressed Gordon. “It’s always in our DNA to come back and get results. It’s good for our confidence moving forward.”
With the prospect of heading to Mexico down a goal, the late strike by Gordon gives the Quakes confidence that they can still get past the tournament’s top seed. And though the away-goal tiebreaker could come into play, the Earthquakes will gladly travel south knowing they’re chances are not as dire as they could have been.
“It was a big goal for us,” said goalkeeper Jon Busch. “We now have everything to play for. It’s the same old Quakes: we battle to the end and we did it again.”
Perhaps, as he did on Tuesday, Alan “Superman” Gordon will again show up in the nick of time to save the day for San Jose.