SAN FRANCISCO -- Caretakers of Candlestick Park probably thought they had seen it all as they dressed the venerable old stadium Sunday for one last gasp -- an entertaining soccer game featuring the Earthquakes and Spanish league champion Atletico Madrid.

The 'Stick, after all, has withstood a major earthquake during the Bay Area World Series. It has endured complaints about chilling winds and haunting fog. It even survived a grand jury investigation in the late 1950s into how Hunters Point became the site.

But organizers had to delay kickoff an hour Sunday because Atletico's bus had a flat tire on the way to the stadium.

Just another day at the park.

Atletico won the game in a 4-3 shootout. The Quakes (5-8-5, MLS) started the week by closing Candlestick and will end it Saturday by opening Levi's Stadium in Santa Clara.

"It meant a lot to us," coach Mark Watson said of the finale. "Anyone who has been around the Bay Area knows what history it has."

As farewells go, this one was filled with pathos with a crowd of 15,556 on hand a day after almost 63,000 soccer fans filled Cal's Memorial Stadium to see Real Madrid play Inter Milan in another exhibition.

But San Jose worked hard to make it a special occasion by playing the Spanish champions to a standstill over 92 minutes of regulation.


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The Quakes might have been outclassed by Atletico, but they frustrated a team that reached the UEFA Champions League final in May. Atletico, which left many of its starters home to rest after the World Cup, still fielded a talented squad as it prepares for the season in two weeks.

Watson also gave a handful of regulars the day off. That included target forward Alan Gordon, who has an undisclosed injury.

In the shootout, Khari Stephenson booted the first shot over the net, and Miguel Moya saved Billy Schuler's attempt. But the Quakes leveled it at 3-3 on shots by Shaun Francis and Brandon Barklage.

That left Atletico's Saul with the final shot of the first rotation. He easily scored to give his team its second victory in two preseason games.

The Earthquakes did well to get to penalty kicks. It took a big first-half save from backup goalkeeper Ryan Meredith in the 39th minute.

Raul Garcia booted a penalty shot into the left post. Koke got the rebound near the left side of the goal mouth, where Meredith made the save while sprawled on the ground.

Watson sent four new players out for the second half, including promising rookie Tommy Thompson. The rookie had a big breakaway early in the half but kicked it into gloves of Moya.

"I had so much space," said Thompson, 18. "I went for a chip and mishit it."

Speaking of hits, presumably many more people will turn out to see Paul McCartney's farewell concert Aug. 14 that serves a capstone on Candlestick's closing events.

The 68,000-seat stadium is scheduled for demolition in spring 2015. But the changes won't erase the memories of the sporting gods who graced the grass field. Mays, Marichal and McCovey for the Giants. Montana, Rice and Young for the 49ers.

The stadium played host to World Series and All-Star games. In 1966, the Beatles played their final paid concert here. The Pope appeared in 1987.

It opened April 12, 1960, with then-Vice President Richard Nixon throwing out the first pitch on opening day in front of 42,269 fans. The Giants scored a 3-1 victory over the St. Louis Cardinals that day.

Trivia will show that Atletico Madrid closed it with a shootout victory Sunday.

Candlestick: 1960-2014. RIP.

Saturday's game
Seattle (12-4-2) at Earthquakes (5-8-5) at Levi's Stadium, 7:30 p.m. NBCSN