Quakes keep up playoff hopes

Tim Hunt
Date Published: 
Daily Review

Aztecs fall, 3-2

LOS ANGELES -- Water cascaded forward as Paul Child rung out his saturated red jersey.

Child, looking as if he'd just emerged from the nearby Los Angeles Swimming Center, savored the moment.

The veteran striker had just combined with his San Jose Earthquake teammates to ring out the Los Angeles Aztecs, 3-2, in 90 degree weather here yesterday at the Memorial Coliseum.

Child's glancing header caught the corner of the goal in the fifth minute of sudden-death-overtime to give San Jose a critical win and nine points in the standings. The Earthquakes are now 12-12 on the season and just three points behind third-place Hawaii with 103 points.

Of course Hawaii, which currently occupies third place and the final playoff spot in the North American Soccer League's Southern Division, will be in San Jose tomorrow night to take on the Quakes.

"We still must win Monday night against Hawaii. If everything goes right we might not need to win against Dallas, but the main thing is winning Monday," Earthquake coach Gabbo Gavric explained.

Las Vegas, the third team battling for the final Southern Division playoff berth, lost its 11th game in its last 13, 4-3 at Minnesota last night.

The Quicksilvers now have 102 points.

Leroy DeLeon, who started in the NASL at its inception, had a hand in all three San Jose goals yesterday. The three goals marked the first time the Quakes had reached that figure since they shut out Toronto on July 2.

The winning goal came 4:45 into the first period of sudden-death overtime. DeLeon ran down a ball at the comer of the penalty area and dribbled away from the goal line before sending a pass across the goal mouth. Child was right there with a step on defender Terry Mancini to deflect the ball into the far corner of the net.

"Leroy played around in the corner and then saw me coming and pinged it across. I got a step on Mancini and just flipped it into the far comer, since the keeper had gone to the near post for the shot (by DeLeon)," Child said.

The two teams had tied 2-2 after 90 minutes of regulation time in the heat and high humidity of the full-sized Los Angeles field.

Aztec George Best demonstrated why he is considered one of the world's most outstanding
players during one stretch of the second half. The Aztecs scored both their goals during a nine-minute span, with the second Earthquake goal by DeLeon sandwiched in the middle.

At the 53:25 mark, Best dribbled around three Earthquakes and hammered a hard shot on goal from about 23 yards. San Jose goalkeeper Mike Hewitt deflected the ball back in front of the net, but Steven David was right there to flick it over Hewitt's desperate dive and into the upper corner of the net.

That deadlocked the score at 1-1. The Quakes had taken a 1-0 halftime lead thanks to a misjudged crossing pass by LA goalkeeper Bob Rigby.

Ilija Mitic hit a looping cross which carried over Rigby's desperate leap to DeLeon at the far edge of the penalty box. DeLeon dribbled the ball away from Rigby and then sent a shot toward Child in the center. Defender Ron Davies beat Child to the ball, but only succeeded in knocking it into his own goal for a 1-0 Quake edge.

After Best and David had combined to tie the score again, DeLeon put the Quakes back on top just five minutes later. Mitic pushed the ball forward to Tony Simoes, who then hit DeLeon as he streaked into the penalty area. DeLeon juked a defender and then put the ball back into the far comer for a short-lived Quake edge.

LA's Davies, who had come forward to give the Aztecs additional scoring punch in the second half, initiated the second goal. Davies beat John Rowlands for a high ball and headed it toward the center of the penalty area.

David and Hewitt both went for the ball and crashed together, as the ball rolled to Best on the left for an easy shot from about eight yards.

The goal proved costly to the Aztecs, as David was injured on the play and had to retire to the sidelines. David strained knee ligaments on the play.

The Quakes also might be hurting for tomorrow night's game, as Rowlands had to leave the game after 82 minutes with a nerve problem over his right knee. Rowlands was to visit a doctor immediately after the Quakes returned to San Jose last night.