It was one of those unforgettable moments. Up 1-0 over Vancouver Whitecaps FC with half an hour to play, San Jose Earthquakes players Victor Bernardez and Alan Gordon decided they needed to change their boots. At the same time.
And when they were ready to come back on, referee Fotis Bazakos wasn’t about to let them.
Vancouver showed no mercy with the temporary two-man advantage, and Corey Hertzog, making his Whitecaps debut, scored what would turn out to be the equalizer on 62 minutes.
“Every year in MLS you see something you’ve never seen before,” goalkeeper Joe Cannon told reporters following the match. “Overall, I don’t know what to think of that situation. It’s just something that happened and it helped us out.”
Whitecaps head coach Martin Rennie was similarly perplexed by the pair’s decision to step off the field at the same time.
“I don’t know first of all if they had permission to leave the field,” Rennie told Vancouver radio station TEAM 1410 following the match. “You shouldn’t leave the field unless you have permission. Maybe they did. Then it’s up to the referee to bring them back on when he sees fit to do that."
Rennie's actually wrong. Bazakos correctly cited Law 4 in FIFA's Laws of the Game, which states that a player - one who has permission or not - who leaves the field for an equipment change can only come back during a stoppage in play.
Hertzog’s goal ensured Vancouver picked up their first road point of the campaign after back-to-back 2-1 defeats to the Houston Dynamo and Chivas USA.
But even that might not have been enough had it not been for a stoppage time save from Cannon off a corner kick.
“I hope it’s something we can build off,” Cannon said of the away draw. “We’re a lot like San Jose at home. We know what we have to do to win. On the road, it’s something great to have our guys pull together to get the tie in a tough place like this.”