Yallop says "we feed off" Steven Lenhart's play

Return of the #BashBros invigorates San Jose's attack

Steven Lenhart vs. Vancouver Whitecaps FC

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USA Today Sports Images

SAN JOSE, Calif. — With Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart back, the San Jose Earthquakes attack suddenly has a much sharper edge, which could be bad news for the Portland Timbers.

With Gordon earning his first start of 2013 and Lenhart debuting after November knee surgery, the Quakes were arguably more dangerous than they’ve been at any point this year in drawing 1-1 against the Vancouver Whitecaps this past Saturday.

Between Gordon’s slick passing — yes, you read that right — and Lenhart’s aerial work, the Quakes could have easily beaten the Whitecaps 3-1. And that’s something that should concern a Portland team which will face San Jose on successive Sundays, beginning this weekend, having just lost veteran center back David Horst to injury.

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Having both Gordon and Lenhart at his disposal means Quakes coach Frank Yallop doesn’t have to let up against opponents. He can deploy one in the starting lineup and hold the other in reserve, or even contemplate using both at once. Last year, the Quakes averaged 2.25 goals per match in games where both men played, vs. 2.00 in other games.

Although Yallop has shown enthusiasm for playing both Gordon — who started against the Whitecaps and assisted on Chris Wondolowski’s 18th-minute goal — and Lenhart together, the fact that it’s artificial turf at JELD-WEN Field might give pause to using too much of Lenhart, who has battled swelling in his knee, post-surgery.

“We’ve got to make sure that we’re managing our guys, but I think Lenny’s proved that he’s ready to go,” Yallop said Tuesday at training. “Whether he starts or not, we’ll look at all our opportunities to get these guys on the pitch and go from there.”

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Where they hope to go is back to their goal-binging ways of last year. One could start to see the outline of that old team coming back into focus Saturday, when Gordon set up Wondolowski’s goal with a one-touch pass, and made another delivery that could have been a goal had Wondolowski gotten a better strike on the ball.

“People just think [Gordon] is a big target guy that just bashes guys, but his ball to Wondo [in the fifth minute] was unbelievable,” Yallop said. “If [Real Salt Lake playmaker Javier] Morales was doing that, we’re talking about what a great ball it is. ... That’s a great pass by Alan.”

Lenhart, who missed San Jose’s first five matches as he recovered from offseason arthroscopic surgery to repair a meniscus tear in his right knee, came on in the 69th minute against Vancouver, replacing Ramiro Corrales.

It was Lenhart’s work in the air led to a shot for Mike Fucito in the 93rd minute, and his flick set up Sam Cronin for a 94th-minute, 14-yard shot that pinged the post. Lenhart also was in the mix for several of San Jose’s flurry of a half-dozen corner kicks in the final 10 minutes, drawing the rapt attention of Vancouver’s defense.

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“Having Lenhart on the field was good for everyone involved,” Yallop said. “Not just the fans, but the club, because we like Lenny. We like what he brings to the team. He brings a ton of energy. And his type of play, we feed off. He played well, too. He gave us that late surge.”

With the man who coined the “Goonies” nickname for last year’s Quakes team on hand, it was almost a shock that the Quakes didn’t come up with another goal in second-half stoppage time — something they did nine times last year and once already this season.

“I thought we were pushing,” Lenhart said. “We looked good, man. I thought we looked good, but sometimes it just doesn’t happen. So we’ve got to keep preparing and show up next week a little tougher and a little sharper.”