Stephen Lenhart gave the San Jose Earthquakes just the boost they needed on Saturday, scoring his first two goals of the season after coming on as a second-half substitute in a 2-1 win over the Philadelphia Union at PPL Park.
Lenhart scored the game-winner on a back post header in the 93rd minute off a cross from fellow second-half substitute Marvin Chavez, extending the unbeaten run to six games for the Quakes (6-1-1). The win not only assured San Jose will remain atop the Western Conference standings at least another week, but also pushed their road record to 3-0-1 this season.
The loss ended a two-game winning streak for the Union (2-4-1), who played without suspended starters Gabriel Farfan and Keon Daniel and went with assistant John Hackworth in place of head coach Peter Nowak on the bench. Nowak missed the game Saturday while serving the first of a two-game suspension for his involvement in an incident during the Union’s match against Chivas USA last weekend.
But even Nowak likely couldn’t have put the brakes on Lenhart, who came on in the 61st minute and brought to life a game that was sluggish through the first hour. But the big San Jose striker latched on to a Chavez cross with a diving header at the back post in the 76th minute, pushing the Quakes in front and simultaneously snapping the Union’s shutout streak at 408 minutes, a franchise record.
The lead didn’t last long, however, as the Union’s Gabriel Gomez scored his third goal of the season to even it up in the 83rd minute. Union striker Danny Mwanga dug a ball out of a scrum in front of the San Jose net and coolly dished it back to Gomez, who buried a shot from inside the box before leaping over the end boards in celebration.
Quakes defender Ike Opara then had a goal in the 90th minute controversially called off for offside, which appeared to San Jose’s last shot at stealing three points on the road. But then came a pin-point cross from Chavez on the right touchline and the timely game-winner from Lenhart, and the Quakes’ run of early-season momentum got another shot in the arm to last into May.
The late goals salvaged a tough night offensively for the Quakes, who couldn’t crack Union goalkeeper Zac MacMath until Lenhart came on. They tested MacMath early but came away empty-handed each time, thanks to saves on a Rafael Baca shot in the 6th minute, Khari Stephenson in the 12th and a free kick from Stephenson in the 45th minute.
The Union mustered even less until Gomez struck. Their best chance came when midfielder Michael Farfan skimmed a chip shot off the top of the crossbar from outside the box in the 30th minute.
German newcomer Kai Herdling also had a solid look in the 55th minute off a Freddy Adu corner kick, but his header sailed well wide of the post.
The Earthquakes return to action on May at home against D.C. United, while the Union play at Seattle on May 5.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Stephen Lenhart||No arguments here. His first two goals of the year spurred the Quakes to another win, and he had an assist somehow taken away.|
|2||Marvin Chavez||Another super sub. He's been maybe the best addition all year for San Jose, and his two pitch-perfect assists proved it again.|
|3||Zac MacMath||He kept the Union in it early when not much was working offensively. He makes a case for best GK in April.|