SAN JOSE, Calif. — With his heel healed, San Jose Earthquakes forward Steven Lenhart and the club can go to work on the perception that he’s one of MLS’ biggest heels.
Lenhart is expected to be available to face Colorado on Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium (10:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online), returning from a two-game suspension courtesy of the league’s Disciplinary Committee and an additional match lost to the heel problem.
“I’m in, man,” Lenhart told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “I’m ready to bash.”
The question is how much bashing will take place, with Lenhart under so much scrutiny from officials on the field and at the league office?
Yallop and Lenhart have had multiple conversations on that topic, and the 26-year-old said it would be a matter of “trial and error” to find the right balance of keeping the aggressiveness that his coach wants while making sure to stay on the right side of the law.
“He’s got to realize there’s a magnifying glass on him, a spotlight on him,” Yallop told MLSsoccer.com. “Anything Steven Lenhart does is going to be looked at. It’s not easy to play with that on you. But sometimes, if the spotlight’s on you, it is for a reason.
“I think that we’ve worked very hard. I’ve talked to Steven, spoke to him a lot on not getting involved in stuff that’s going to get him into trouble.”
This will be only the third time in 13 matches this season that Yallop will have Gordon, Lenhart and Wondolowski — a triumvirate that combined for 50 goals last year — together at the same time.
Lenhart demurred when asked whether he thought opponents were taking advantage of the extra attention being thrown his direction to engage in their own illegalities.
But Gordon, for one, feels Lenhart — who missed several weeks last year due to a concussion suffered in a US Open Cup match against the Seattle Sounders — is being put “at risk” by that kind of imbalance in terms of watchfulness.
“I don’t think it’s any secret, even going back to last year, I think ... the officiating is unfairly called against [Lenhart],” Gordon said last week. “I’ve seen him get elbowed in the face several times [with] no suspensions or Disciplinary Committee coming back and suspending people. And then he’ll do something and he’s either red-carded or suspended.”
“I know he’s a physical player and he gives out a lot, but he still receives a lot of punishment. So I’m frustrated for him when he doesn’t get calls. I know it frustrates me when I don’t get calls, and I feel like that sometimes, but he’s on a whole new level.”