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S.J. Earthquakes hit Stanford Stadium in Independence Weekend match

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School may be out for the Cardinal faithful, but the team’s usual home of Stanford Stadium was buzzing with activity last Saturday. It wasn’t for a football game, the venue’s main event, and there were no national teams or popular European squads in sight. Instead, fans in the Stanford area came out in droves to see the San Jose Earthquakes (5-5-6) play the New York Red Bulls (5-3-10) in a nationally televised Major League Soccer contest over Independence Day weekend. San Jose squandered a late lead and settled for a 2-2 tie.

The match, which the Earthquakes relocated from the traditional Buck Shaw Stadium in Santa Clara, saw a crowd of 41,208—the largest ever for a non-doubleheader in the Earthquakes’ history.

San Jose forward Steven Lenhart, right, jostles for position with Red Bull defender Carlos Mendes. Lenhart's tally in the 68th minute gave the Earthquakes a 2-1 lead that they could not hold.

The stadium change surprised many fans when it was announced last April, but the added exposure and publicity of the Stanford-hosted event seems to have paid off, according to the team.

“With more people, there was more electricity,” said San Jose Earthquakes President Dave Kaval ‘98 MBA ‘03. “Being at Stanford also enables us to have fireworks after the game and is an opportunity for fans all over the Bay Area to watch the Earthquakes.”

Given Kaval’s background, the decision to move the game to Stanford may have been as much about loyalty as business. Besides being a Stanford alumnus, Kaval is a Cardinal football season ticket holder and says he enjoyed working with the Stanford staff to make the transition possible.

“As a season ticket holder, I believe that Stanford Stadium is a hidden gem in the Bay Area,” Kaval said. “Having this marquee matchup here is an opportunity for people to see this. The Stanford staff has been tremendous to work with, and we would love to come back.”

Kaval has memories of Stanford’s role in the 1994 FIFA World Cup, when a then-larger Stanford Stadium was one of nine venues to host the event in the U.S.—and one of only two on the West Coast.

“As an alumnus, I want to create new history as Stanford did 17 years ago with the World Cup,” Kaval said. “That is why we [honored] ‘94 World Cup players at halftime.”

Former Team USA players Tab Ramos, Thomas Dooley, Marcelo Balboa, Paul Caligiuri, Fernando Clavijo, Mike Sorber, Juergen Sommer, Cobi Jones and John Harkes were on site Saturday evening, almost 17 years after their 1-0 loss to Brazil in the Round of 16 at Stanford on July 4, 1994.

When the pregame festivities outside Stanford Stadium concluded and the game got underway, the large crowd quieted early. In just the seventh minute, Red Bull forward Joel Lindpere put in the first goal of the game from the outskirts of the 6-yard box.

It wasn’t until the 37th minute that the Earthquakes leveled the playing field with midfielder Khari Stephenson’s unassisted goal. The Red Bulls and the Earthquakes entered halftime with a 1-1 tie.

In the 68th minute, San Jose took the lead after forward Steven Lenhart split two Red Bull defenders and hammered in a header goal off of an assist from teammate Steven Beitashour.

Toward the end of the game, the Red Bulls picked up the intensity with back-to-back attempted shots on goal. San Jose goalkeeper Jon Busch saved the first attempt and energized the crowd as he blocked the second in order to hold onto the lead. His efforts wouldn’t hold up, however, as Lindpere took control of an assist from Red Bull forward Mehdi Ballouchy and scored his second goal of the game in the 85th minute to put the score where it would end, at 2-2.

Going into the match, one of the other draws of the contest was French national team player and Red Bull forward Thierry Henry. However, Henry was not present during the match due to a red card suspension.

Taking his place was Ballouchy, a graduate of both Palo Alto’s Henry Gunn High School and Santa Clara University.
“It was awesome,” Ballouchy said. “I went to school five minutes from here. I went to college 20 minutes from here. It’s a special place to play soccer.”

Members of the Earthquakes were also pleased with the atmosphere and crowd at Stanford.

“It was fantastic [to be at Stanford],” said San Jose head coach Frank Yallop. “I think the players warmed up to the crowd a bit after seeming a bit nervous in the beginning of the game. It is always tough to play in a new stadium, because it doesn’t feel like home. But toward the end of the game, it felt like home and it was a great for everybody.”

Lenhart noticed several differences between Stanford Stadium and Buck Shaw, the current home for the Earthquakes.
“[The roar of the crowd at Buck Shaw compared to Stanford] is like a double-double at In-N-Out versus a Big Mac,” he said. “It was fun. I wish I went to school here.”

Contact Kevin Zhang at kevinzhangle “at” gmail.com and Rachel Wolfard at wolfard “at” stanford.edu.