SANTA CLARA, Calif. – This time, the only fireworks from the San Jose Earthquakes and Seattle Sounders came in the run of play. And the biggest bang of all was reserved for Quakes forward Steven Lenhart.
Lenhart continued the Quakes’ comeback tradition Saturday, delivering a 93rd-minute game-winner from a Shea Salinas corner as San Jose extended their lead atop the MLS standings with a 2-1 win against the Sounders, who had equalized only moments earlier through Fredy Montero.
It was the teams’ first match since a contentious US Open Cup quarterfinal ended with Seattle winning 1-0 on June 26 and provided plenty of on-field drama.
Simon Dawkins tallied in the 71st minute to open the scoring in a match that featured plenty of end-to-end action, if no early goals.
The Earthquakes (14-5-5) moved four points clear of their nearest pursuers in the Supporters’ Shield chase, with Sporting Kansas City passing Real Salt Lake in the No. 2 slot earlier in the evening.
Dawkins put San Jose on top when he wheeled on a headed pass from Lenhart and beat Seattle goalkeeper Michael Gspurning to the near post from 12 yards.
After the Sounders spurned some late chances, Montero evened the score from point-blank range when Sam Cronin – who provided a critical block on a booming 81st-minute shot by Brad Evans – couldn’t get enough on his attempted clearance of a long Seattle throw.
Seattle forward Sammy Ochoa, making his first career MLS regular-season start as the busy Sounders battled fatigue, put a ball off the crossbar in each half, finding the woodwork with a 32nd-minute bicycle kick and a 59th-minute header.
Despite playing Wednesday in Kansas City for the US Open Cup title, Seattle opened alertly, matching the Quakes in an active first half.
Lenhart had a pair of early chances, while Seattle missed a potential connection in the 28th minute when recent Designated Player signing Christian Tiffert slid a ball to space inside San Jose’s box, but Andy Rose couldn’t get there in time.
Four minutes later, Tiffert set up Ochoa with a back-post header off Alex Caskey’s left-wing cross. Ochoa fired a gorgeous bicycle kick from 9 yards, but it caromed off the bar and out.
Playing their third match in seven days, Seattle juggled their lineup to account for fatigue. Of players who went the full 120 minutes in the Sounders’ USOC loss, only Gspurning, midfielder Osvaldo Alonso and defender Zach Scott opened against San Jose.
On the San Jose side, Lenhart made his first start since June 30, taking over at target forward for Alan Gordon, who served the first half of his two-match suspension for a yellow-yellow-red evening against the Chicago Fire, which also saw Earthquakes head coach Frank Yallop sent off. Chavez, back from a strained hamstring, replaced Shea Salinas at right wing, while Steven Beitashour returned from suspension at right back.
San Jose travel to Montreal next Saturday, while Seattle host Vancouver later that evening
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Steven Lenhart||Threatened all evening and finally made good when he headed home yet another improbable late goal and set up Dawkins' opener|
|2||Jason Hernandez||Superb in the back as he snuffed out plenty of dangerous Seattle chances|
|3||Brad Evans||Active throughout the match, created plenty of danger, even if the efforts were ultimately fruitless|