July 17, 2004

Popular Former Bronco Returns To Hometown

July 17, 2004

By Dylan Hernandez
San Jose Mercury News

Walk up to the Club Quake tailgate outside Spartan Stadium on the day of an Earthquakes game and ask them about (former Santa Clara University men's soccer star) Joe Cannon.

They will talk about how he was a fan's player during the four seasons he spent with San Jose. They will mention how he brought them a keg of beer for one of their pregame barbecues last season, while he was between teams. Or how he sat with Earthquakes fans at the MLS Cup in Carson last year and exchanged high-fives with them after the game.

So how will these fans receive Cannon today when he takes the field at Spartan Stadium for the first time since 2002, this time protecting the Colorado Rapids' goal?

``I would assume they'll cheer,'' said Earthquakes forward Landon Donovan, Cannon's former roommate. ``Joe could be mayor here.''

``They'll probably give me a nice ovation, but when the whistle blows, anything goes,'' said Cannon, who played at St. Francis High and Santa Clara University. ``I hope they're not too hard on me.''

Guy Gayle, a Club Quake member, grinned when asked the question. ``Our heart's with him,'' he said, ``but that's more reason'' to heckle him.

It has been a long journey back for Cannon. After he felt the Earthquakes did not make him a satisfactory offer following his being named the Major League Soccer goalkeeper of the year in 2002, he signed a six-month contract with the French club Lens. That deal expired without him playing a single minute, and he returned to home.

In May 2003, he was called up for the U.S. national team's friendly at Spartan Stadium against Wales, but he did not get to make his international debut.

``That was, from a soccer point of view, one of the most disappointing and difficult times,'' Cannon said. ``I was so excited to be home, and a lot of people were telling me they wanted to see me get in.''

Cannon signed with Colorado near the end of the 2003 season, but still rusty he served as the backup to Scott Garlick.

Garlick has since been traded to Dallas, and Cannon has rewarded the Rapids for putting their faith in him, leading the league with a 0.88 goals-against average.

That small quantity is only slightly higher than the number of goals the Earthquakes have averaged in their past five games: 0.8. They are winless in those games and have lost three in a row to sit at the bottom of the Western Conference.

Cannon said he is not particularly nervous about today's game. He has already faced his old teammates on April 24 in Colorado, a game won by the Rapids 1-0. Cannon thinks the other meeting between these teams in San Jose, on Aug. 28, could be more emotional.

``It might be the last time I ever play at Spartan,'' the goalkeeper said, alluding to the rumors that the Earthquakes may relocate.

Cannon, who talks to Donovan and Richard Mulrooney on a weekly basis, said he would be crushed to see the Earthquakes move. Cannon owns a townhouse in Santa Clara and considers the area home.

``For me, that would be the biggest disappointment, if they lose the franchise,'' he said. ``I tell people that if I could, I would sell tickets for them or sell hot dogs.''