Conventional wisdom says San Jose Earthquakes forwards Alan Gordon and Steven Lenhart are too duplicative in terms of their skill sets to complement each other on the pitch.
The shorthanded Los Angeles Galaxy found out Wednesday just how wrong conventional wisdom can be.
After a toothless first half without 11-goal scorer Chris Wondolowski, away on U.S. national team duty, Quakes coach Frank Yallop inserted Gordon at intermission for an ineffective Sercan Guvenisik.
HIGHLIGHTS: LA 2, SJ 3
As the pair of target forwards teamed up for their longest stretch of the season, Yallop was rewarded with a last-gasp jackpot: Lenhart got San Jose on the board in the 76th minute and Gordon followed up in the 94th with a shock goal that secured a 3-2 victory for the Quakes against an LA side reduced to 10 men for the final 31 minutes.
San Jose has secured points in each of their last three matches via Gordon goals in the 88th minute or later.
“We love to fight and we’re committed to the 90 minutes plus,” Lenhart said. “From the 11 guys on the field to the rest of the team, there’s no dropoff. It’s fun to be a part of, and I think we have a good thing going.”
It was San Jose’s first triumph against the Galaxy at the Home Depot Center since the Quakes were re-founded in 2008 – and a further sign that this year’s model can win even if Wondolowski isn’t on hand.
“It was great,” Yallop said of the Gordon-Lenhart pairing. “For us, it was a good look at two target forwards that are not just target forwards. They’re mobile, they’re quick, they’re very clean on the ball and I think they played really well together.”
Prior to Wednesday, Gordon and Lenhart had teamed for only 33 minutes this season. But that included a 15-minute stint against nine-man Real Salt Lake in which San Jose scored twice in stoppage time to pull out a 3-1 win.
San Jose needed the same kind of heroics against the Galaxy, who looked as though they’d found the game-clincher when Mike Magee blazed through on a counterattack and rounded Jon Busch for a 2-0 lead in the 73rd minute.
Instead, Lenhart laid out for a diving near-post header off a Marin Chavez corner-kick delivery and rifled it past LA goalkeeper Brian Perk.
Khari Stephenson pulled the Quakes even in the 82nd minute, converting a penalty kick awarded against David Beckham for a handball inside the box.
The game-winning sequence began with Jason Hernandez launching a pass from just inside the midfield stripe in the direction of Lenhart, who was engaged in some heavy jostling with Galaxy center back du jour Brian Gaul, playing just his second MLS match.
The ball eventually floated over the heads of Lenhart and Gaul. Gaul’s partner, A.J. DeLaGarza, appeared to peel off of Gordon to afford goalkeeper Brian Perk free reign to step in and make a play. But Perk froze in no-man’s-land at the top of his own 6-yard box, and Gordon was able to nod a header off the high bounce over Perk and into the empty net.
“He’s a beast, man,” Lenhart said of Gordon. “I think we work well together. We battle. We try to keep the ball for our team to come play with us. He’s fun to play with. And he’s scored some big goals.”
It was a final illustration of the kind of havoc a Gordon-Lenhart pairing can wreak.
“They did a nice job of occupying their center backs,” Yallop said. “That’s what they both do. There’s nothing easy when it goes in to them. Center backs don’t have a good day. And that makes us better.
“I think we did a nice job of pressurizing the Galaxy in the last 20 minutes of the match, and to go on and win it was great.”
Geoff Lepper covers the Earthquakes for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.